LAHORE: Electricity, being an essential service, cannot be privatised as it is the responsibility of the state to provide all the essential services to the citizens and protect the fundamental right to life, said sources in the labour unions of various power distribution companies (Disco).
It may be noted that the information minister of the caretaker set up Murtaza Solangi said last Friday that the interim government was empowered to privatise state-owned enterprises and Discos to improve the ailing economy.
Circles from the labour unions of Discos have apprehended that assets of Discos would be transferred to private hands at under value price. They have pointed out that the privatisation of water supply was declared as unconstitutional in some countries on the argument that the citizens enjoy the right to health and the transformation of a public utility into private profit making entity would lead to uncertainty in the provision of affordable and high quality water to the people, which was essential to ensure their health.
The insecurity introduced through it the delegation of this essential utility to the private sector could not be remedied simply through state regulation and supervision over the private company’s performance, they added.
In some other countries, they said, privatisation of water supply was reversed because it was tantamount to denying citizens their basic right to water. They said the state is bound to control vital branches of production that affect public livelihood and no indirect regulatory control is permissible in this regard.
According to these circles, it is binding on the state to promote social and economic well-being of the people and raising their standard of living and providing them reasonable facilities for work and leisure along with the basic necessities of life.
The provision of a basic amenity such as electricity cannot be left to the vagaries of the marketplace and the state must assume direct and active responsibility for the same, they said.
The sources in the labour unions of Discos said right to electricity has been recognized as a part of right to life. Also, they added, the sale of national assets that holds a strategic position and relates to the exercise of sovereign rights should be restricted and the executive must exercise extraordinary caution and due care.
According to them, the executive should ensure that, in the guise of privatising, a public asset supposedly in the public interest and citing financial exigency, it does not diminish or affect the sovereign rights of the state; it’s obligation to provide essential service and the safeguarding of fundamental rights of citizens.
They said the federal government should devolve the Discos to the provincial governments and let them run their affairs instead of handing them over to private parties.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023