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Thursday, September 20, 2007

No one can be deprived of electricity

The news item "Slums near rail tracks supplied electricity" (11 September) has inspired me to write this letter for the interest of the electricity consumers.
The State Electricity Board has provided electricity to the slum dwellers adjacent to the railway tracks running from Barasat to Madhyamgram. Swapan Mondal, DRM of Eastern Railway, has said: "The legal status of the colonies next to the railway tracks is disputed and as a matter of fact, its electrification should be treated as illegal." My response is on the very particular word or point "illegal".
I was a full time member of the Hooghly District Consumer Redressal Forum for five years. During my tenure, I had to deal with hundreds of disputes relating to electricity. Electricity is an essential service like water and no one can be deprived of this service. Supply of electricity to an illegal occupant does not establish any right to the encroacher or illegal occupant to the dwelling place. Here I do like to quote the conclusive part of a judgment on electricity by Calcutta High Court. "Even a trespasser will get electricity if he or she lives at the place for a pretty long time." Only a certificate from the local MLA/ municipal commissioner is necessary in confirmation of his/her long stay. If a man/ woman or his/her family resides illegally in a house, the family is entitled to get electricity. We had to handle or settle a large number of disputes between tenants and landlords involving electricity. The house owner cut the line and the tenant applied to the SEB/CESC directly for a new connection. The power authority concerned refused to supply electricity to the tenant on the plea that the owner of the house had objection to it.
According to the law on consumer forum the objection of the house owner is untenable. Here I quote a judgment. "The supply of electricity has become a matter between the occupier and the licensee under the electricity Act and landlord as the owner cannot ordinarily stand in the way." (Ratnamala Devi vs Ratan Singh - Section 12(2), amendment (1959), EA 1910, LR 1990 Cal 26). We replied on those two judgments.
In this particular case, the SEB has not done any wrong by supplying electricity to the shanty dwellers. The objection of the landowner (Easten Railway) is untenable. The railways can evict the illegal occupiers, but cannot object to the supply of electricity.
~ Yours, etc., Kalipada Basu,
Chinsurah, 12 September.
Sir, ~ In self-delusion, Indians are past masters. Those who clamour for India's superpower status and energy sustainability ("Left ignorant about historical facts", 13 September) should study former Supreme Court judges Mr Krishna Iyer, Mr SB Sawant and Mr H Suresh's statement that Article 5.6 (a) of the 123 Agreement stated in no uncertain terms that amendments to the United States laws, including Hyde Act of 2006, would be needed to enable India to obtain reliable and uninterrupted access to fuel.
"As it stands, the 123 Agreement of August 2007 does not in any way provide binding fuel supply assurance. The agreement will be binding only when ratified by Parliament. There is no provision in the Constitution which gives such authority to the executive."
They also added that according to Article 2.1, "the 123 Agreement was subject to all the present internal laws of the US" and that "any action taken by the government to implement the nuclear deal without the authority of Parliament is unconstitutional". Any further comments from the Indian experts of historical facts are superfluous.
~ Yours, etc., GP Ray,
Kolkata, 13 September.
Price rise unchecked
Sir, ~ Amidst turmoil and crisis in the current politics of India, the prices of essential commodities are shooting up. The ordinary people are finding it increasingly difficult to make both ends meet.
In Parliament, Union finance minister Mr P Chidambaram promised to check the price-rise, but failed miserably to do any thing. Not only that, the government has formed a committee under renowned economist Mr Abhijit Sen to examine the reasons behind the price rise. The committee has submitted its report, but the government has not said anything either in its favour or against it.
On the other hand, the government has decided to import wheat. My question is: why import wheat? Is there any scarcity of wheat in the country? The government has argued that import of wheat is for puffing up of store-houses. How strange! This year production of wheat has increased by 60 lakh tons. The government usually buys wheat from peasants to puff the store-houses.
This year the government has fixed the minimum procurement price of wheat at Rs 850 per quintal, whereas the market price is higher. This is why the peasants have sold out the wheat in the open market. Now the government has decided to import wheat at Rs 1,600 per quintal to reach the target. Are not the peasants being deprived? This pitiable thing has happened in the past also. It is in this background that prices of foodgrain and other essential items are soaring.
The recent survey report of the Chamber of Commerce is: in the last 12 months the market price of wheat, milk, tea, spices, vegetables, fish and meat have increased by 23 to 25 per cent. In this period the per capita income of the commoner has come down by 1.09 per cent, whereas the living standard of high-income groups has increased.
The price rise is a burning issue and all political parties should stand united to combat this menace, burying all other issues for the time-being.
~ Yours, etc., Hemanta Kumar Roy,
Belghoria, 12 September.
Teachers' grievance
Sir, ~ Allow me through the columns of your esteemed daily to draw the attention of the education department of the state government to a long standing grievance of the primary school teachers.
I like to bring to the notice of the education minister (school) the fact that according to the government order (No. 1531 Edu(S) dated 7 October 1985), which has been thoroughly revised in 2001, the upper age limit fixed for the appointment to the posts of assistant teachers in non-government secondary schools "shall not be applicable to the approved in-service teachers of recognised primary schools and the approved in-service non-teaching staff of recognised secondary schools/madrasas".
But unfortunately the in-service primary teachers are not allowed to appear in the SSC examination if their age exceeds 37 years, though the in-service non-teaching staff of recognised secondary schools or madrasas get this opportunity of age relaxation. Then why should the primary school teachers, who are working under the state government, be deprived of this opportunity?

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