Saturday, May 2, 2009

Company Bahadur

Various news reports regarding some shoddy deals entered in to by the State Government with the government of India’s corporation, National Hydro Power Corporation or NHPC have justifiably raised many an eyebrow. It has been observed that the NHPC appears playing the role of the Company Bahadur, the name assumed by what originally was known as East India Company, with some bureaucrats in the state administration playing the role of Mir Jaffers and Mir Sadiqs. The recently signed MoU by the state government with the NHPC is at least suggestive of the dirty role played by these bureaucrats in bequeathing state’s precious resources to the latter. And the state government headed by Omar Abdullah is doing no better than the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah in dealing with the menace called NHPC, a perception fast gaining ground in the public. The MoU that gives the state owned Baghliar project to the charge of NHPC is the most questionable agreement as it is fraught with risks of state losing a chunk of its fortunes that could accrue to it from sale of electrical energy. The explanation tendered by the J&K power Development Corporation that “Baglihar being highly sophisticated and state-of-the-art project, its operation and maintenance was felt to be outsourced for a limited period which would be utilized for training of its own engineers and technicians as the requisite level of expertise was not available in JKSPDC and within the state government to run such a sophisticated plant” is not at all plausible. The question is that why did not the JKSPDC take care of the HRD when the project was under construction.   The arrangement would result in skill development of local manpower. While denying the news report on the shoddy deal the spokesman has chosen to remain silent about shelving of the recruitment process in the in 2004-2005 during the PDP-led coalition rule. The fact remains that the corporation had conducted interviews to select engineers for training them in O&M of Baglihar. Agreed the operation and maintenance of the whole project involved high level of technical expertise in relation to electro mechanical units, civil structures, reservoir management, fire and other safety measures but why shelve a process that would result in creating the trained manpower needed for such operations? By abandoning the recruitment process, the state is sure to incur heavy losses as it has to pay Rs 120 crore to the NHPC for maintenance and operation of the project. Had the recruitment been made and trained the recruits in time, the state would not be beset with such a problem today. The question is had the PDP-Congress coalition government taken the issue seriously, the state could have saved Rs 100 crore and utilized it in developing another project. As per the corporation the deal was struck by an Apex Committee headed by the chief secretary and comprised of financial commissioner, Planning and Development, commissioner/secretary, Finance, commissioner/secretary, PDD, managing director, JKSPDC and JKSPDC senior engineers. Given the nature of the deal it is more pro-NHPC than pro-state. Obviously most of the members of the apex committee are non-stake holders and therefore cannot be expected to take care of the interests of the state. The Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir, a grouping of the industrialists of the state appears justified in questioning recent MoU signed for generating 2120 mw of power from three power projects of Pakaldul, Kiru and Kawar in a joint venture company with NHPC and asking for scrapping it. According to it the projects would require around Rs 18,000 crore to be generated from 30 per cent equity and 70 per cent from public subscriptions. Out of the equity of Rs 5400 crore, the state government’s share would be Rs 2700 crore which shall have to be contributed in 5 years. Even if the government succeeds to adjust cost of land involved in the projects at Rs 200 crore, still they shall have to pay Rs 500 crore per year. The string attached to the agreement entered into with NHPC that in case the state government failed to contribute towards the project, their share would be sold off and in that case the first right of purchase would remain with NHPC. The stipulation that while the state government’s share in the joint venture could not exceed 49 per cent, the NHPC was free to hold up to 98 per cent of the shares, is no way acceptable to the real stakeholders i.e the people. The condition in the agreement that the benefits of power would be shared by the parties in joint venture as per the actual contribution made by them thereby undermining the position of the state. Similarly the condition regarding control and command of the joint venture company would de facto remain with the NHPC. Although the agreement provided for absorption of 100 per cent C and D class employees as also 49 per cent of A&B class employees from among the state subjects, yet the clause was made subject to their suitability, availability and eligibility, which too gives disproportionate share to the NHPC. The allegations leveled by FCIK are too serious to be ignored by the NC-led coalition.

Post a Comment