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Just Transition Research Centre (JTRC), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur organized a one-day workshop on “Just Transition Dialogues: A discussion with key stakeholders from Panki Thermal Power Plant” under the leadership of Prof. Pradip Swarnakar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. Twelve representatives from labour unions, Government of Uttar Pradesh and civil society organizations participated in the event. It is one of the discussion series on Just Energy Transition hosted by JTRC, IIT Kanpur.
Inaugurating the workshop, Prof. Pradip Swarnakar welcomed the participants and set the context of the event, and further described the inevitability of energy transition from fossil fuel to renewables. He said that in this process of transition, it is important to have such dialogues with the key stakeholders at the grassroots level to understand the impacts on the workforce.
The chair, Prof. Braj Bhushan, Head of the Department, elaborated briefly about the department and its interdisciplinary research tradition. He further highlighted that in the course of policy change, the social impacts on the people should be given prime importance. And, such discussion will help researchers at IIT Kanpur to design effective people centric policies.
Dr Mudit Kumar Singh, Rajshri Shukla, Nishikanta Naorem and Jhumur Dey- the researchers at JTRC-IIT Kanpur moderated the session. Dr. Singh opened the dialogue by putting the question of jobs versus environment in the proposed climate change commitment by our country.
Mr. Asit Kumar Singh from All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Ms. Abha Chaturvedi from Vidyut Utpadan Karamchari Sangathan (VUKS), Mr. Sukhdev Prasad Mishra from Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), Mr. Prakhar Tripathi from Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) were among the trade union representatives who were present in the workshop. Mr. Shaiwal Bhatnagar and Vaibhav Katiyar from the Institute of Entrepreneurship Development UP (IEDUP), Kanpur were the representatives from the government department. Utkarsh Dwivedi and Mrutyunjay Mahindre from Shramik Bharati, a civil society organization (CSO) participated in the workshop.
According to Asit Kumar Singh (AITUC) there is a lack of consultation with the people who are getting affected by a policy change. He cited the example of the closure of Panki Thermal Power plant (PTPP) without giving sufficient time as a result a large number of contractual workers (engaged through contractors as well as by the PTPP) were out of their jobs and never got compensated. However, he stressed that there should be a legal norm of serving a notice of closure well in advance.
Mr. Shaiwal Bhatnagar from IEDUP, Kanpur said that the possible solution to compensate the affected workers is to help them or encourage them to move to entrepreneurship. There are already many schemes of the government in this regard, however, there is a lack of awareness among the workers. And, tracking the migrant workers adds challenge to the situation.
He further emphasized that institutes like IIT can act as a mediator between the workers and the government in organizing skill development workshops sponsored by IEDUP at the ground level.
Ms. Abha Chaturvedi from Vidyut Utpadan Karamchari Sangathan (HMS affiliated) stated that one of the major issues faced by the workers in power plants is health and safety and this should be properly taken care of in the new plants which are under construction. She highlighted the importance of trade unions in addressing the problems of the workers. However, she also expressed her concern regarding the diminishing roles of trade unions in these sectors.
While responding to the question of how civil society organizations will play a role in this process of transition, Mr. Utkarsh Dwivedi from Shramik Bharati stated that the transition needs to be gradual so that the structural intervention for rehabilitation strategies could be streamlined. He pointed out that in spite of the holistic vision of government policies, there is a gap in the implementation of such policies where CSOs can play a vital role.
According to Mr. Sukhdev Prasad Mishra from Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, as a trade union leader, he looks at the changing nature of the energy system from the perspectives of the workers. He expressed his concern on how workers, especially contractual, struggle to get compensation after a closure takes place. As per his opinion, technological up-gradation acts as a catalyst of development, however, it affects the livelihoods of the workers by reducing the manpower. In order to resolve this issue in the process of transition, such dialogues and seminars are crucial.
Summarizing the workshop, Prof. Pradip Swarnakar expressed his gratitude to all the participants and highlighted how important it is to have such kind of dialogues with different stakeholders at the ground level to address the diverse issues of the affected community in the process of the energy transition.
The workshop ended with an agreement that all these stakeholders will work closely with JTRC, IIT Kanpur for a high quality policy oriented research that can inform the policymakers to fulfill the national commitments regarding climate change and energy.