Maintaining that there are no malpractices in the power department which he is in charge of, minister James Sangma has clearly stated, in no uncertain terms, that the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government will not tolerate any kind of mismanagement or irregularities in the department. The statement comes in the midst of a demand raised by the main coalition partner in the MDA – the United Democratic Party (UDP) — for Sangma to be removed from the post of Power Minister and also for the incumbent CMD of MeECL, Arun Kumar Kembhavi to also be removed. Interestingly, this demand has also been backed by the staff of the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) who have written to the government and demanded a CBI probe into what it alleges to be financial management and favoritism in the corporation. Downplaying this, Sangma has attributed it to teething problems in the implementation of reforms aimed at strengthening MeECL and the whole power sector in the state. While claims and counterclaims are being made regarding the power crisis that Meghalaya is presently faced with, ambiguity has become the order of the day as the common man is left to his own devices in trying to understand who is right and who is wrong. With MeECL having such a bad track record in recent years, any changes in the mode of functioning or any reforms being implemented have to be crystal clear and should not leave any room for conjecture and speculation. The government has to be clear about its intent, the method by which it seeks to fructify this intent and it also needs to be ready to take in suggestions from all stakeholders about any perceived problems.
This was apparent on the issue of the smart meter system which the government is trying to implement in the state and which has drawn criticism and opposition from several quarters. There were varying and conflicting reports on the cost of each smart meter that will be installed with speculations on prices ranging from Rs 3750 to Rs 9444. There are also questions being raised about the manner in which the maintenance and repairs of these meters will be handled and the cost thereof. While Sangma has cleared doubts about the cost of the meters which he pegged at Rs 2750, he was mum on the issue of maintenance and repairs. The main takeaway from all this is that there has to be constant communication between the government and the common man regarding policies and programmes that are being implemented or in the pipeline especially in regard to MeECL which, through the years, has been eyed with a lot of suspicion. This has had a very negative impact on the image of the corporation and therefore, its road to redemption and re-earning the trust of the people cannot be marred by any vagueness in terms of its affairs. Sangma has already stated that the problems that plague the MeECL have been handed down from previous governments, but if he is to vindicate his own absolution from any wrongdoing, clarity is the need of the hour.