Home » MSPDCL yet to provide information regarding Saubhagya Scheme; Instead of providing information on Saubhagya Scheme, authorities tried to negotiate asking to withdraw information sought through RTI Act

MSPDCL yet to provide information regarding Saubhagya Scheme; Instead of providing information on Saubhagya Scheme, authorities tried to negotiate asking to withdraw information sought through RTI Act

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 5 minutes read

IT News
Imphal, August 31:

On suspicion of misappropriation of funds sanctioned and implementation of Saubhagya scheme by MSPDCL, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Imphal Times sought information regarding this through the Right to Information Act, 2005. However, instead of providing the information the top authority of the MSPDCL invited the editor of this newspaper and bargained for negotiation regarding the issue and assured to fulfill any demand if the information sought in connection with the implementation of the Saubhagya scheme is withdrawn. But Imphal Times editor shrewdly convinced them and escaped from the meeting and keep continued all possible efforts to get the information. If the scheme has been implemented properly, Imphal Times was surprised at why the authority wanted our team to withdraw the RTI application. The MSPDCL still is not providing any information till today and the hearing is going on at the Manipur Information Commission. It was under the Saubhagya Scheme that Prime Minister announced Manipur Village Leishang of Senapati district as the last village in India to be electrified on April 29, 2018. But later, there were reports of many villages not being electrified in many parts of Manipur. To find out what defy the announcement of the Prime Minister, Imphal Times file sought information about the Saubhagya scheme through RTI Act 2005.  
The Saubhagya scheme, which was launched by Union Power Minister R K Singh and Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on November 28, 2017, has provided electricity connections to 1,02,748 households between October 10, 2017, and March 31, 2019, as per a report given by the Manipur State Power Distribution Company Limited (MSPDCL).
The Manipur State Power Distribution Company Limited (MSPDCL) claimed that before the launching of the Saubhagya scheme a total of 1,02,758 unelectrified households were there. After the launching of the Saubhagya scheme, all these unelectrified households are electrified between October 10, 2017 to March 31, 2019, and no house was left out as claimed by the implementing authority (MSPDCL). A total of 19,452 households in Senapati District, 5,263 households in Imphal East District, 15,683 households in Churchandpur District, 14,431 households in Thoubal District, 5,665 households in Imphal West District, 5,342 households in Bishnupur District, 13,037 households in Ukhrul District, 12,263 households in Chandel District and 11,612 households in Tamenglong District, altogether 1,02,748 households were reported electrified.

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Under the Saubhagya Scheme, the electricity connection to households includes the release of electricity connections by drawing a service cable from the nearest electricity pole to the household premise, installation of an energy meter, wiring for a single light point with an LED bulb, and a mobile charging point. If an electricity pole is not available near the household for drawing service cable, the scheme will cover the erection of an additional pole, conductor, and associated accessories.
To verify the genuineness of the work done, Team Imphal Times filed an RTI to MSPDCL on April 18, 2022, seeking information on the equipment and materials used in the implementation of the Saubhagya scheme. However, as the MSPDCL officials failed to respond, team Imphal Times appealed the matter to the first appellate authority. As the attempt went in vain, we filed a second appeal to the Manipur Information Commission (MIC) and the first hearing of the said appeal case started on July 14, 2022.
As per information available with the Imphal Times, a work order amounting to Rs. 199,85,89,291(One Hundred ninety-nine Crore, eighty-five Lakh, eighty-nine thousand and two hundred ninety-one) was given to four firms for implementation of the said scheme. During the financial year 2018-19, the firms work orders for implementation of the Saubhagya Scheme were awarded to M/s. Shyama Power India Limited, M/s. T & T Projects Ltd, M/s. Industrial System LLP and M/s Khagemba Transmission and Construction. The estimated cost of the work programme awarded to the four firms are Rs. 113,35,62,512, Rs. 40,67,43,500, Rs. 44,13,39,248, and Rs. 1,71,24,031 respectively.
During the course of the hearing at Manipur Information Commission on July 14, 2022, the authorities of MSPDCL submitted that the sought information relates to personal information, commercial confidence, trade secrets, or intellectual property and is exempted under the RTI Act, but failed to explain how the information sought relates to personal information. Further, the authorities of the MSPDCL prayed to the Manipur Information Commission to allow him to file a written explanation for the denial of information. The Commission fixed the next hearing for August 9, 2022.

During the hearing on August 9, the authorities of MSPDCL requested the representative of Team Imphal Times for joint inspection of the record in their office, but the representative strongly denied the request, stating the RTI is filed in the larger interest of the public, so there is no need for private inspection as the information sought is all public documents. Following hearing from both parties, the Commission directs the authority of MSPDCL to positively place all files and records pertaining to the RTI queries before the Commission on August 24, 2022 at 2.00 pm for examination by the Commission and sets September 1, 2022, as the next hearing date.
The information sought by team Imphal Times is public documents and it never relates to personal information, commercial confidence, trade secrets, or intellectual property as submitted by the authorities of MSPDCL. The work to be done by the four firms includes the supply of electric poles, electric wire, distribution transformers, etc., and the erection and commissioning of these items. During the hearing, Team Imphal Times also submitted that how come the supplying of electric poles, electric wire, and distribution transformers and erection of electric poles by drawing a service cable come under trade secret?

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