James junks ‘malpractice’ charge against power dept

Staff Reporter

Shillong, March 29: Power Minister James K Sangma today questioned MeECL Engineer Association (MEA)’s opposition to the smart meter project in the state saying this was a part of the reforms that would eventually pay dividends.

He also said the government would not tolerate any kind of financial mismanagement and irregularities in the power department.

“How can the engineers say that this is bad for the state when the whole country is going through a transitional phase and Government of India has made it very clear that within a certain period of time all static meters are to be converted to smart prepaid meters and we’ve already initiated the process,” Sangma told reporters.

He said disruptions in systems are only to be expected when reforms are initiated, but these are needed and for the engineers to take such a stand is unnecessary.

His clarification comes in the wake of the MEA’s demand to replace the power minister and the CMD of Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL). The association had opposed the smart meter project and alleged financial irregularities in the MeECL.

Sangma also pointed out that unlike in the past salaries and pensions were now being paid on time.

“I am not saying that we have solved the problems of salaries but I am saying that with these kinds of steps problems related to salaries and pensions will be solved and the system will be streamlined,” he said adding that it is unfair for anyone to say that salaries and pensions are not paid.

On allegations of corruption, Sangma said the government takes such charges seriously and no malpractice can be tolerated.

In this regard, he cited the action taken against illegal tendering for the Mawlai sub-station.

“This was rightly pointed out by the Ministry of DoNER and we took action on that, we have scrapped the tender and initiated fresh proceedings,” he said.

He said introduction of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) would ensure synergy of processes starting from billing to accounting and obviate malpractice.

The minister said that most of the allegations are based on loose information, citing the one on cost of the smart meters as example. It has been alleged that the smart meters are being procured at the rate of Rs 9,444.

“I have categorically stated that the meter cost is Rs 3750 and nowhere near Rs 9,444. This is the kind of misinformation which is doing the rounds and allegations of corruption are being levelled,” he said.

The minister said the smart meter project is being implemented strictly as per laid down procedures of the Government of India and there is no question of any malpractice in tendering process.

‘I have done no wrong’

Staff Reporter

Shillong, March 29: Power Minister James PK Sangma today said that as minister he has done no wrong and has instead tried to initiate reforms in the power sector for the greater interest of the state and its people.

He also said that he welcomed the concerns expressed by the MDA coalition partners, including the United Democratic Party (UDP), but these ought to be discussed in the right forum of the alliance.

Speaking to a few reporters, he said reforms were a necessity to improve the MeECL and the power sector, but there may be some who are uncomfortable with change.

“If people think that bringing in reforms is something bad, then I would have to say that I disagree with them,” the minister said.

James said that he welcomed all sorts of ideas and suggestions from the coalition partners and that some concerns that they have expressed were indeed genuine.

“We have been working hard to ensure such problems are minimised and the delivery mechanism improves and the consumers are empowered. Our coalition partners’ intentions are good, their concerns are very genuine, and I appreciate and thank them for that. But then what is important is if they have suggestions, I am more than ready to listen. If these suggestions are valid and bring about good for the MeECL or the power sector, we will act upon it. This is something that cannot be a monologue, but something which needs to be discussed,” he said.

Admitting that there are problems, he, however, said a collective effort is required to solve these.

On the demand that he should be ousted as power minister, James said that if that would provide any solution then it is worth examining and discussing.

He said that problems that have accumulated over the years could not be expected to be solved in three years adding that there cannot be any “magic wand.”

On whether the UDP leaders have spoken to him, the minister said that no one has reached out to him.

“I have utmost respect for Dr Jemino Mawthoh as he has been my colleague in the last Assembly and we have been friends in the House. We have shared many ideas, and took part in the discussion in the past. He has not spoken to me personally, nor has anybody else who have made such kind of demands. I would like to state that it would be in the fitness of things that whatever has to be said should be discussed on this forum (MDA coordination committee) and whatever ideas that are there, should be put out and we welcome to take those suggestions,” the minister asserted.

On load shedding, the minister said that one should go to the MeECL and ask for records of the hours of load shedding from 2010 to 2018 and from 2018 till now. “It is during lean season that we have the majority of our load shedding (from November – March) when we have less rainfall as most of our generation comes from rain-fed rivers which the hydro power stations are operating because of it.  The hours of load shedding have drastically reduced over the past three years,” he said.

He said load shedding right now is because of the power regulation by NTPC, NEEPCO, PGCIL.

“We have streamlined the system in such a manner that today the gap between generation and peak demand is not much. There is a big difference between load shedding and regulation in the past and now. We have to understand that this regulation is taking place because of outstanding dues and not because of shortage of power,” the minister added.