There is almost none who can doubt the importance of electricity for the improvement of living standards and general development of a country, but making decisions regarding it based on a 106-year-old almost dysfunctional act is counterproductive.
Bangladesh's Electricity Act 1910 is an inheritance from the greater India region.
However, the act went through attempts of several revisions and amendments in the last two years but the Power Division still could not finalise the proposed draft of the act.
The setback is being mainly blamed on several issues that were excluded from the draft act and now it awaits a final approval, according to several officials of the Power Division.
Talking to the Dhaka Tribune recently, Power Division Joint Secretary Mohammad Alauddin said: “The draft act was sent to Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs Division of the Law Ministry for scrutiny after revisions were made as per the Cabinet's instructions. Later, it was sent back to us with some proposed revisions.
“The draft was sent again to the Law Ministry with the required revisions and it now awaits the ministry's vetting.”
The draft electricity act, which was approved by the Cabinet in principle on August 8 last year, was also uploaded on the Power Division's website on May, 2015 for feedback from stakeholders.
After the Law Ministry's vetting, the final draft will be sent to the Cabinet again and if approved, the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources will place the draft act, containing eight chapters and 74 sections, in Parliament in form of a bill for passing.
The new electricity act will be formulated in Bangla and will be translated to English as per government instructions. The government has also instructed to translate all previous acts, that are in English, to Bangla.
Inside the draft act
The preliminary version of the act has gone through many changes over the two years since its inception.
The initial draft had a provision to ban the trade union but later it was revoked as per the Cabinet's instructions. The provisions of captive power generation and private sector investment were also omitted after suggestions were made from the Power Division.
But, as per government claims, the current power generation capacity is 15,000 MW including the captive generation – power that is produced on one's own initiative, which can be any company or an individual.
A Power Division official, on condition of anonymity, said these steps were taken so that the private sector cannot surpass the public sector in terms of electricity generation, transmission and distribution.
The draft act also emphasised on various disciplinary actions that should be taken for theft of electricity or sabotage of power plants.
According to the proposed law, the government can form an intelligence cell for identification and prevention of electricity theft and wastage.
The draft law states that if any individual is found with illegal power connection for household or any other use, then he or she will be punished with imprisonment not exceeding three years or twice the price of stolen electricity or Tk50,000 as pecuniary punishment.
It also states that if any individual causes damage to power plants, electricity substations, power lines, poles or other equipment with intentions of sabotage, then he or she will be punished with imprisonment of minimum seven years and maximum 10 years or Tk10 crore as fine or both.
The government can form an independent system operator for operating the combined power system across the country, according to the draft law. It can also form power cells under the Power Division for necessary reformation for the development of power sector, development of performance, giving technical and policy support.
Although, power cells are active under an ongoing project, it will be institutionalised after the legislation.