Intrigues scuttle renovation of MeECL project at Mawlai

SHILLONG, April 19: Litany of allegations against MeECL, which has lately been making news for wrong reasons, is refusing to die. How the Corporation is plagued by intrigues, nepotism and sheer irresponsibility at the top has come to fore once again. This time it is about scuttling of the project for overhauling of Mawlai Power Sub-station which is a vital cog in the wheel for ensuring uninterrupted power supply to the capital and overall voltage stability all round.
The Mawlai substation, which was commissioned way back in 1965, is long overdue for revamping. About three years ago DoNER had sanctioned Rs 49 crore for this project. But the project has failed to make headway within the deadline leading to NEC retracting its allotment.
Official sources revealed that initially the work was awarded to 60 different suppliers and contractors by violating all the CVC guidelines. After DoNER objected to flagrant violations, tenders were cancelled by the Board of Directors.
Later, the Corporation prepared fresh tender documents in line with CVC guidelines but strangely one of the independent directors not only opposed the new tendering process in the Board meeting but instead batted for the local contractors and suppliers saying that their bills had to be cleared first. When asked to comment, MeECL CMD, Arunkumar Kembhavi said, “This was illegal in all respects. I had objected to the same and it is on record.”
He further informed that the Board member was part of the decision-making process for cancelling the tenders, yet she wanted the local suppliers to be paid for illegal orders. The matter was later referred to the state government for legal opinion.
The Power Minister then called the said independent director and asked her many uncomfortable questions including failure of the management to arrest the theft in Byrnihat, low recovery of revenue, non- payment of dues to Power Grid, salary delay, diversion of funds and most importantly failure of the Corporation to complete the Mawlai substation upgradation even after three years.
The Director didn’t like being grilled and within a week tendered her resignation citing flimsy reasons. Meanwhile the scheme lapsed on March 31, 2021.
In the meantime Kembhavi has written to DoNER to grant extension to the project until December 31, 2021. Once the extension is granted, fresh tender will be floated and work should be completed by the year-end.
“This is a very important substation as we are currently running on almost 97% of our existing substation capacity.
Since the load is expected to go up this winter, without the upgrade, Shillong city will descend into darkness,” Kembhavi feared.
Encroachment of land by own staff
Another interesting fact is about the assets of the MeECL and what they are worth at the present market rate. When asked why the Corporation is not using its assets judiciously, the CMD replied that the Corporation owns more than 2500 acres of land across the state most of which has been encroached upon right from the 1970s.
“You will be surprised to know that our own employees have encroached on the land thinking they will go scot free. We have now sought the services of a central PSU which will act as a land management agency. It will do a cadastral survey and map all our assets,” the CMD disclosed.
Kembhavi also informed that the state government had extended financial assistance amounting to crores of rupees on the understanding that the Corporation’s land would be used for productive purposes by the state government departments like Tourism but since the title of the land is unclear it is impossible to pledge the land to the government.
This attempt to do a cadastral survey was to ensure that the Corporation had very clear ownership over its land and property. As of today there are squatters who have built on the Corporation-owned land. It is learnt that one of the reasons for the resignation of the Independent Director was also because of this attempt by the Corporation to stake legal claim over its land which was acquired in the 1960s when the hydro-electric project was being envisaged.

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