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Still in the dark ages

Crores have been spent over the past three years under the Central government’s flagship rural electrification programme in three districts of Jharkhand’s Palamu division....

Written by Manoj Prasad | Ranchi |
December 4, 2009 11:50:27 pm

Crores have been spent over the past three years under the Central government’s flagship rural electrification programme in three districts of Jharkhand’s Palamu division,with the aim of providing electricity to more than 2,000 villages by the year-end. But less than a month from the deadline,the situation remains grim,with the private company given the contract to do the work unable to take power to even one-third of the assigned villages.

According to the latest status report of the project,dated November 5,electricity has reached only 676 out of the 2,350 villages which are to be covered under the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) in Latehar,Palamau and Garhwa districts. Even among the villages “certified” as having got electricity by the concerned Block Development Officers,many continue to live in darkness either because of inadequate power supply or poor infrastructure that was put up.

Deputy Secretary (Energy) R Minz blamed the slow work on the Maoist rebels,who remain entrenched in these areas. “In this belt,the police and administration officials dare not enter. Not one infrastructure project has fructified till date. So many villages have been electrified. This is no mean achievement,” he said.

The Jharkhand State Electricity Board (JSEB),however,believes it is a fit case for a Vigilance probe. JSEB Chairman A K Chugh has asked the Vigilance to inquire into it. “We have received a recommendation in this regard from him (Chugh),” said DGP (Vigilance Bureau) Nayaz Ahmad. Chugh was not available for comment.

The JSEB had invited bids under RGGVY to provide electricity to the villages — 671,536 and 1,568 villages in Latehar,Palamau and Garhwa respectively — on June 29,2006. The contract was awarded to Hyderabad-based IVRCL Projects and Infrastructures in November. Madhu Koda,who also held the energy portfolio,was the chief minister then. The awarding of the contract to IVRCL has now come under scrutiny of investigators looking into corruption charges against Koda. They are also looking into dealings between Koda and IVRCL AGM (Project) D K Srivastava,whoseLucknow home was raided and documents seized recently.

“We have reasons to believe that Koda had made investments in this company,” said a senior IT officer.

The IT and the Enforcement Directorate have seized all files related to the contract. “We are examining whether there was any illegality in awarding the contract to IVRCL,” said IT’s Additional Director (Vigilance) Ajit Srivastava.

Back in the villages,the question now being asked is when will they get electricity,if at all. Against the project cost of Rs 503.42 crore,the JSEB has already released Rs 391.16 crore to IVRCL,which claims to have done its best to execute it. IVRCL’s manager in charge of the project,Surya Kant,said: “Work is still on. All villages assigned to us will be electrified soon.”

But Tata Consultancy India Limited (TCIL),appointed by the JSEB to supervise project implementation,in its status report has said just 125 villages in Latehar,141 in Palamau and 410 in Garhwa have been “certified” as electrified.

Even these villages did not get much. At Borsidag in Latehar,the infrastructure was set up — transformers and metres were installed,poles erected and wires were connected to every household. But minutes after the JSEB supplied power on September 27,the transformer got burnt. Many of the “electrified” villages saw the same. More than 780 transformers installed by IVRCL caught fire this year.

JSEB Assistant Engineer M K Nirala said: “The transformers were not up to the mark. Against the need of 63-100 KVA transformers,the IVRCL had installed 16-25 KVA transformers.”

At Babhandi in Palamau,the poles were put up last year. But metres,transformers and wires have not been connected by the IVRCL. “If these materials were provided to us,we could have fixed them by now,” said Asutosh Minz,a member of a Self Help Group in Garhwa.

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