File photo: Debabrata Saikia

Congress Legislature party leader Debabrata Saikia, on July 9, released a statement slamming the state government, particularly chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, for unconstitutional statements.

The Assam government on July 9 released advertisements in different newspapers saying that reports about non-payment of power bills to Assam State Electricity Board by government departments are misleading. “They are also saying that the state government has been making payments, time to time, to ASEB every year from 2018 and the amount thus paid up is nearly Rs 4895 crore. They mean to imply that since the government has been making payments to the electricity board from time to time, the departments need not pay the power bills. Actually, the whole statement is misleading and the state government is trying to fool the people of Assam,” Saikia stated.

The collection and distribution of electricity is regulated by the Assam Electricity Duty Rule, 1964 and it was published in the gazette on April 28, 1965. After this, matters related to collection of electricity dues and distribution were resolved by the government side, electricity supply authorities and consumer groups through the Assam Electricity Regulatory Board, which was set up to determine when to send notice if a consumer does not pay on time, when to disconnect power, when to approach the court for payment and so on. There is no mention anywhere that government officials have to produce latest power paid up bill for getting their salaries, Congress leader Debabrata Saikia said.

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“Secondly, there is also no mention in any rule that government departments paying subsidies to the electricity boards do not have to pay for the electricity consumed by them. So, both the issues are against the law or rule. Here I want to point out that the Rs 400 crores paid by the state government recently to ASEB as subsidy was meant for purchasing power from outside. The subsidy is needed as the power generated at home is less than required. In the last 5 years, the BJP has been promising to increase power production and their election promise was to supply power continuously for 24 hours but due to corruption, there was no increase in production and power had to be bought from outside the state to meet the demand,” Saikia alleged.

Further the Congress leader said that the chief minister, in the last budget, promised to provide 30 units of electricity free to every family in the state. Poor families are already being provided 30 units free every month. “Now, the question remains whether 30 more units will be provided free, taking the total to 60 units, or whether the CM thought the people had forgotten and made the announcement again before the elections to get more votes. I demand clarification on the issue,” he said.

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“I also want clarification on the statement by the CM in June 2021, that the electricity board was suffering a loss of Rs 300 crore every month and demand a CBI inquiry on the 4 years of administration by the power department. The then power minister Pallab Lochan Das, in an answer in the state Assembly in 2017, said that ASEB was making a loss of Rs 50 lakhs every month. The huge difference begs a CBI inquiry,” the Nazira legislator said.

CM turning Assam Police into trigger-happy cops: Debabrata Saikia

On the issue of recent police firings in the state, Debabrata Saikia said that chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is turning Assam Police into ‘trigger- happy cops’. “CM Sarma has told the police to shoot any criminal. In the meeting with OCs, the CM had made the statement. It is against the Constitution as ‘right to life, right to live’ is guaranteed in Article 21. The Supreme Court mentions 6 special conditions under which this right is denied, exclusively for self-defense purposes. If the police, due to their own inefficiency, lets a criminal escape when under custody and then shoots him, it is against the law. If the CM condones and even encourages such activity, it is against the Constitution and we condemn such activities. I appeal to the police officials not to be party to such unconstitutional activities. I also ask government officials not to fall prey to political instigation and indulge in activities contrary to the Constitution and democracy,” he said.

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On spiralling oil price and inflation

Congress leader Debabrata Saikia also released a statement on the spiralling petrol and diesel prices in the country. He said that despite falling international crude oil prices, the price of petrol has crossed Rs 100 a litre because of the taxes imposed by the state and central governments.

“I demand that petrol and diesel be brought under the ambit of GST. Since June 2020, the price of rice has increased 4 per cent, dal by 15 per cent, mustard oil by 42 per cent, refined oil by 52 per cent and tea leaves by 24 per cent; but the government has not taken any steps to provide relief to the poor. I condemn the government for not taking any steps to check price rise. I urge the government to provide the mentioned items through fair price shops,” he said.

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