Shillong: Meghalaya’s opposition Congress on Thursday decided to move a breach of privilege motion against Chief Minister Conrad Sangma for “misleading the House” with regards to the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed between the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the erstwhile Congress-led Government in 2007.
“The Opposition would move breach of privilege motion against the Chief Minister during the ongoing Budget Session. The Chief Minister with a predetermined motive had tried to misinform and mislead the House,” Leader of Opposition Dr Mukul M. Sangma told reporters after Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh adjourned the House for the day.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had on Tuesday blamed the previous Congress-MDA government in 2007 for signing a lopsided PPA with NTPC.
Under the clauses of the agreement, the Chief Minster had told members of the assembly that the State has to pay a “fixed charge” of Rs 11 crore every month, even if the State didn’t purchase power from NTPC.
However, the Leader of Opposition maintained that there was no mention about the Rs 11 crore which is required to be paid by the State Government.
“They (government) were trying to play to the gallery, but the worst thing they have misinformed which amounts to breach of privilege of the House,” the former Congress Chief Minister said.
“This was done with sheer malafide and pre-determines intent to engage in another narrative and hide the facts. This attempt to mislead and misinform the House coming from none other than the leader of the House,” Mukul asserted.
Earlier, while taking part in a Short Duration Discussion on the prevailing power crisis in the State, the veteran Congress legislator came down heavily on the government for what he termed as “creating a mess” in the power sector.
The Congress legislator also alleged of rampant corruption in the department and sought answers from the Power Minister as to why various viable projects of the previous government were shelved.
Countering the Chief Minister claims that the PPA agreement with NTPC was a “lopsided” one, Sangma, who was the then Power Minister who signed the agreement, alleged that the Chief Minister has not done his homework with regards to the agreement signed in 2007.
“Has the Chief Minister read every page of the agreement ? Where was the Rs. 11 crore that the MeECL had to pay to the NTPC every month as mentioned by the Chief Minister recently? Why has the Chief Minister misled the august House?,”the former Chief Minister flanking the PPA document inside the House.
The Leader of Opposition, said, there are provisions for arbitration under the Central Electricity Act to get out of this agreement.
He further informed that the PPA was the culmination of a long drawn process which his predecessors had worked on and then it was signed by him while he was in office as Power Minister.
Moreover, he appealed to the ruling NPP-MDA government to stop focusing on the past and try to work on the turnaround of the power sector.
The former Chief Minister also suggested that power could still be drawn from NTPC and sold to Bangladesh at a profit.
He said such transmission lines could be built if the government wished.
Replying to the discussion, Power Minster James Sangma refuted the allegations made by the Leader of opposition saying these were speculative in nature amounting to “character assassination”.
He also pointed out to Clause 11 of the PPA which noted that the agreement shall come into force from the date of signing of this agreement for all purposes and intents and shall remain operative upto completion of 25 years from the date of commercial operation of last unit of the station, unless it is specifically extended on mutually agreed terms.
“What kind of nonsensical clause is this? Don’t understand the logic. Why tie us down in this manner and cause us huge loss,” James said about the tenure of the agreement.
“I do not understand the logic of the government of that time that would tie us down in this manner and cause huge loss to the State,” he added.
The Power Minister said that some of the PPA signed are for only five or ten years.
“There is no standard or fixed format saying that a PPA has to be for 25 years from the date of operation of the last unit,” James informed the Assembly.
He added although it was a tripartite agreement, as a federal State, the state government had the option to not have agreed to this clause on the tenure.
The Power Minister pointed out several lapses committed by the previous government, the brunt of which was being borne now.
James, however maintained that load shedding has been drastically reduced in the recent times in the State, adding that there was no power cut during 2020.
The load shedding that had to be resorted to in February this year was because of regulations put in by power corporations, he said, adding that the matter was resolved in a very less time.
The Power Minister also informed the Assembly that State-owned Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited 3.23 lakh new consumers have got electricity connection under the NPP-led government as compared to the period between 2010 and 2018 (under the Congress government), only 1.07 lakh consumers were added.
“The billing distribution efficiency has improved from 62 per cent last year to 73 per cent as of date while the bill collection efficiency is 97 per cent,” James said.
Opposition member Ampareen Lyngdoh, who had raised a short duration discussion on the “prevailing power crisis in the state of Meghalaya” also made several suggestions for improving the power scenario.