Meghalaya govt to go ahead with power projects

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Shillong, Jan 9 (UNI) Despite overwhelming protests, Meghalaya government has finally decided to go ahead with its decision to allow private companies to develop power projects in the state.

Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Power Dr Mukul Sangma and Chairman of the Empowered Committee on Power today announced the government's decision, while asserting that people would get "free power" once the projects are completed.

''It is necessary for the state to generate power. The projects would create direct employment, assets and improve the state's economy,'' Dr Sangma told reporters.

On the controversial handing over of six power projects "in haste", Dr Sangma claimed that it had been done ''expeditiously and in conformity with the state power policy.'' On opposition by six of his Cabinet colleagues and the agitating Khasi Students' Union(KSU), Dr Sangma said, ''The decision was taken after working out modalities and amended the power policy to suit the state's interest. ''The state will benefit 12 per cent power and two per cent to the people of state,'' the Deputy Chief Minister said.

Dr Sangma said the six power projects would be developed under the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer(BOOT) system for 40 years. ''These projects will be transferable to the state only and not to any other,'' he said.

Last month, the state Cabinet approved a Joint Venture with-Jaypee Group, Dharampal Satyapal Group, ETA Star infrastructure Limited, Athena Project Private Limited, Seven Sisters Energy Limited and SEW Energy Limited.

The projects are Kynshi Stage-I, Kynshi Stage-II, Umngot, Leshka Stage-II, Umiew and Simsang Basin.

Dr Sangma said that the state government has decided to hand over the power was after scrutinising all the private companies, who signed the expression of interest.

Earlier, six cabinet ministers wrote to Chief Minister D D Lapang, opposing the decision to hand over power projects to the private companies on grounds that the Cabinet had overlooked the fact that as per the State Power Policy, any power project worth over 100 MW should be handed over to private firms through international competitive bidding.

''On December 7, the Cabinet took this decision in the absence of majority of the ministers,'' Urban Affairs Minister Paul Lyngdoh said, adding that the December-3 Cabinet meeting approved amendments to the power policy without even giving time to study them and another Cabinet meeting was hurriedly called just four days later to decide handing over of the power projects to private companies.

Mr Lyngdoh said that a clause, which was more favourable to private companies, was inserted in the amended power policy at the last moment without any discussion on it.

Several organisations too had demanded scarping of the cabinet decision, terming the handing over of power projects as a ''total sellout of the state's interests''.

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