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Saubhagya scheme: Power Minister plays ‘power play’ with facts to counter Congress

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Shillong, Dec 3: It was all about facts and figures, when Meghalaya Power Minister James K. Sangma decided to issue a strong rebuttal to the Congress on allegations raised by them pertaining to the power department.

The Congress has been continuously attacking the NPP-led government for unproven discrepancies in the implementation of ‘Saubhagya scheme’. However, the power minister chose to provide a befitting reply with facts.

Stating that the NPP-led government stays committed to developing the power sector of the state, he said, “It successfully brought the Saubhagya Scheme into the state immediately after it came into power. The pan-India scheme was launched by the central government when the Congress government was leading the state of Meghalaya. However, the Congress still did not bring it for the people of Meghalaya even though other states did”.

In a strongly-worded press conference, James clarified details on the implementation of the scheme.

All guidelines adhered

On allegation that two companies from outside the state were awarded the project at 51 percent above the Schedule of Rates (SoR), the power minister said,  “The two companies which were awarded the project took part in an online e-Tendering process as per Centre government guidelines. Companies quoted the lowest bid and were awarded the work only after due approval from the central government. All the prices quoted by the lowest bidders were verified by the central government agencies and after they approved the same, only then were the LOAs (Letter of Award) issued by the state government. Regarding the prices of few items as alleged by the Leader of Opposition, it should be noted that this was a turnkey contract, and the complete BOQ (Bill of Quantity) was vetted and duly approved by central government agencies and experts”.

On the allegation that 100 local contractors received contracts at the SoR, he said, “The Schedule of Rates, which the Congress repeatedly points out, was designed by their government only back in 2014. The local contractors pitched to take up the work at those SoRs. Therefore, they were awarded projects accordingly”.

He further informed that under the Saubhagya Scheme, with the combined efforts of all contractors, 2,146 villages have been electrified in a record 1.5 years with all registered users covered under the scheme. “This happened despite the stretched manpower due to the pandemic”, the power minister added.

OTS for industries

On allegations that One-Time Settlement (OTS) for industries will result in a loss of 700 crores for the Power Department, he said, “The total outstanding dues that the industries owe the power department is 180 crores, making it preposterous for the state to lose “700 crores.” Since 2002, no settlement of dues has taken place and electricity was still being supplied to the defaulters. In fact, under the previous government in 2017, OTS was attempted unsuccessfully by the MeECL”.

“The NPP-led government came up with a plan wherein the defaulting industries could save either 30% of their total outstanding dues or 100% of their delayed payment charges (DPC), whichever is higher. The arrangement has been undertaken to ensure that the settlements can take place in a gradual manner, for the state to recover the losses and also to ensure that industries, which have been defaulting for a long time, have an incentive to pay up”, the power minister added.

“We do not see the need to play along the lines of petty politics of the Congress. If they have chosen that path, perhaps that is the only way they feel they can still be seen as relevant. Our vision and diligence is clear as our primary accountability partners are the citizens of the state”, the power minister asserted.

Power Efficiency

He also said that after the NPP-led government came into power, 90 megawatts worth of solar power has been sanctioned and initiated for the state. “Focusing on more power generation, we will be adding 100 megawatts of solar generation in the next six months for which the tendering process is presently going on. As a matter of fact, Meghalaya has received the highest sanction for this from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)”, he added.

He also informed that the government managed to bring in the ADB grant worth $132.8 million for the state of Meghalaya to overcome its power-related issues. “To reduce unfortunate incidents of electrocution, due to no fencing of transformers or exposed wiring, we have decided to go for 100% underground cabling in Shillong, Tura and Jowai. We have also decided to replace old wires with Aerial Bunched cables in rural areas in the ADB Phase-II program. The AB cables will be insulated and hence mitigate almost all risks and also reduce theft. This will not only reduce dangers but also ensure aesthetic beauty of the city”.

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