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Mukul draws flak on hydel project

- Private firm gets big project

Shillong, Aug. 18: The Opposition in Meghalaya has protested in unison against the decision of the Congress-led government in Meghalaya to ask private company Jaiprakash Power Ventures Limited (JPVL) of Jaypee Group to execute a hydroelectric project.

The JPVL, which is yet to start construction of the 450MW Kynshi Stage-II hydel project in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district, was also tasked to execute the 240MW Umngot hydel project located in East Khasi Hills district.

Initially, the state-owned Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) was asked to take up the Umngot project.

The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) had also conducted a public hearing in April 2012 to elicit views and opinions before implementing the project. The MeECL had estimated a total cost of Rs 1,853 crore for implementing the project in an area of 390 hectares, straddling both Jaintia hills and East Khasi Hills districts.

But the state government reversed its earlier decision by handing over the project to JPVL.

Both JPVL and MeECL are cash-strapped power companies.

“As Umngot is a big project, the government felt it necessary to hand over the project to the private company, though all ground work, including survey and investigation, had been carried out by the MeECL,” power minister Clement Marak said.

According to Marak, the decision to give Umngot project to JP Group was taken by a committee constituted by the state government and there was no bidding process.

The government’s decision, however, has evoked strong opposition from the Hynńiewtrep Youth Council (HYC), a newly-floated pressure group, which insisted that the project should be allotted to MeECL.

“The Umngot project was allotted to JP Group without following any international competitive bidding. Giving the project to a private firm is like selling out our natural resources. Instead, a corporation based in the state should have been tasked to execute the project so that the people of the state can derive more benefits be it generation of power or employment,” president of the council Peter J. Lawai told reporters here today.

He also questioned the logic behind handing over of Umngot to JP Group, the same company which could not perform. It has not been able to complete even the 450MW Kynshi Stage-II hydro project allotted to it a few years ago.

General secretary of the council R. Kharjahrin said the government should not underestimate and condemn MeECL just because the state-owned corporation has committed errors.

“MeECL is a corporation in name but government in spirit as of today. The officers of the government are still running and managing its affairs. We agree that MeECL has shortcomings but instead of condemning, the government could have strengthened it further,” Kharjahrin said while countering criticisms against MeECL’s failures.

Earlier, chief minister Mukul Sangma had pulled up the MeECL saying it should perform like a corporate body and be smart and efficient enough to become a profit-making organisation.

The HYC also questioned the government’s move to hand over Selim hydro project in the Jaintia hills to Neepco and wanted it to be executed by the MeECL.


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