Lurking in darkness, PDD’s arm cannot explain why T&D projects are going no where

Srinagar, Jan 20: Next to the confluence on the highway near uptown Hyderpora, the rented multi-storey office of the Chief Engineer (CE) Projects of Power Development Department exists quietly, a few cars parked within its boundaries.
Inside, half-a-dozen men are busy working out wires, batteries, and invertors to put in place an alternate power system, which wouldn’t be a surprise if it was a consumer’s house in Kashmir, where power supply is next to nothing, people largely rely on similar, reliable alternatives for electricity.
However, the officer expected to implement power transmission and distribution (T&D) projects depending on it, suggests how livid the commoners must be.
More worrying should be the sight of the officials struggling to light up their own office instead of improving T&D, for which, at least on papers, three central schemes and crores of rupees stand invested.
One of the schemes is Rs 3491.93-crore assistance of Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
The state is in the process of getting the money for “augmentation of infrastructure for distribution systems”.
Official documents show that the government of India released Rs 654.7 crore of the sanctioned funds till November 2017.
It, as per the official documents, was to be spent on strengthening distribution systems in selected urban and rural areas of the state, while also enhancing the intra-state transmission.
The state, however, has utilised nothing of the amount released, the documents reveal.
Just a cursory look at the records shows that completing even half of the target could have given relief to the public.
The distribution-strengthening project entailed crucial works including electrification of un-electrified villages, installing new transformers, spreading underground cables, and setting up meter testing labs and separate feeders for agriculture irrigation.
Ask the CE (Projects) JKPDD, Daljeet Singh, he blames “prevailing circumstances” and “weak response to tenders” and “other problems”.
Azhar Waqil, his technical officer, agrees that many of the works are yet to start.
Among the works the CE (Projects) office was supposed to implement included the strengthening of the distribution network in as many as 13 circles of Budgam, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Anantnag, Kupwara, and Bandipora districts.
The project is yet to begin.
“The tenders were cancelled by the administration. There is a court case,” Reasons Waqil, refusing to divulge any further details.
Official status on papers corroborates his view: “Bids in respect of 13 circles being executed by JKPDD had to be cancelled and Notice Inviting Tenders (NITs) will be issued by 30 October 30, 2017.”
Asked whether the fresh NITs were issued, Waqil said they were, but “hardly any bidder was interested”.
He, in fact, claimed that JKPDD (Project) has “not received anything of the Rs 654.7 crore released by the government of India”.
“If it (money) has come, it may be with the state’s planning department. All we received was around Rs 50 crore, the state share of the project,” he claimed.
Asked to mention a few works that had been implemented, the official could only count the “ongoing underground cabling at Gulmarg, Pahalgam and, Sonamarg.”
“We have got the material, and the work is in progress,” he says, adding that the work is supposed to be completed by May.
“Hopefully, it will be completed on time,” he says.
A source in the office, however, quoted two reasons for the “mess” and “non-seriousness”.
“First,” revealed the source, “the state does not large enough private contractors who could take up these vital projects. The national and multinational firms don’t want to work in Kashmir or with the authorities here.”
Result, the source says, is that the tenders are extended four to five times with hardly any response.
“It will be apt to say that neither the department nor the state government has the technical competence to do the job itself.”
Second reason is bureaucratic diktats, the source says.
“The department is facing a lot of bureaucratic pressure when it comes to implementing projects in the valley,” he says.
“We have seen cases where a bidder came forward but the entire project was shelved at the last minute by the high officials in Jammu. It also resulted in annoying the companies who now are wary of working with the state government.”
The source added that apart from PMDP projects, as many as nine GoI-sponsored projects sanctioned to the state under two different schemes—DDUGJY and IPDS—too faced bureaucratic hurdles.
“Kashmir alone was expected to get around Rs 600 crore under these two schemes for strengthening of power distribution system,” the source said.
“After several months, the projects were finally awarded to successful bidders, but soon after the authorities cancelled the tenders for reasons untold.”

 
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