The State government today said that the allegations by Trinamool Congress spokesman Saket S. Gokhale regarding the Meghalayan Age Limited were false, malicious and disrespectful. It also threatened to file a defamation case against him.
“The State government strongly rejects all these claims which are fabricated and devoid of facts. Further, the issuer of this press statement never approached the State government or any of its agencies to seek any information nor used any of the publicly available information including those available at https://meghalayatenders.gov.in. The issuer of this statement has made such motivated and inaccurate claims in the past and it appears that the sole intention behind the recent press statement is to mislead the public. The State government views this very seriously and is considering suing the issuer of this press statement for defamation,” said D Vijay Kumar, Commissioner & Secretary (Planning) in a statement issued today.
Kumar said that the Meghalayan Age Limited is a State government company under the aegis of the Planning Department, which has been incorporated under Section 2 (45) of the Companies Act, 2013.
He also said that the project cost for the Meghalaya Ecotourism Infrastructure Development Project (MEIDP) is about Rs 731 crore and is one of the many externally aided projects (EAPs) being implemented in the State. Kumar also said that under any EAP being implemented in the north-eastern states, the Government of India passes 90 per cent of the funding as grants to the State government and only 10 per cent of the total amount has to be paid by the State government.
“Further, the entire tendering process for MEIDP is being done as per the norms of the State government and is being overseen and approved by the funding agency, the New Development Bank (NDB). All the details are made available to the public at – https://meghalayatenders.gov.in. It appears that all the claims being made by the issuer of the press statement seem to be highly motivated,” Kumar said.
According to Kumar, the works tenders have been floated by the respective departments – Public Works Department, Directorate of Tourism and the State Sports Council of Meghalaya. He also said that the entire tendering process is being done as per the norms of the State government and is being overseen and approved by the New Development Bank.
“The road sub-projects comprise just 14 per cent of the total project size. Further, these road sub-projects are indeed being taken up by the PWD as part of the overall project. It must be noted that the development of tourism cannot happen in silos. Connectivity is integral to tourism and such connectivity projects are also taken up under the Government of India-sponsored programmes such as SWADESH Darshan and PRASAD,” Kumar said.
Stating that all the statutory and legal compliances are being met and followed by the Meghalayan Age Limited, Kumar said that it is mandated by the external funding agencies (New Development Bank in this case) that Project Management Units (PMU) be set up for overseeing the progress and implementation of the externally aided projects.
“These PMUs are selected through international, open and competitive bidding and typically global consulting firms get on-boarded as PMUs. This standard process is being followed for all the EAPs in not just Meghalaya, but in other State and Central government projects too,” he added.
Kumar also denied that a flurry of tenders has been floated in the last three months. According to him, till date, eight major works tenders have been floated under the project and out of these, two were floated in December 2021; another four were floated in March 2022 and the remaining two were floated in the months of August 2022 and October 2022 respectively.
“Further, one of the conditions for the signing of the project agreement is that projects worth 30 per cent of the project size be tendered and awarded. Given that the agreement is scheduled to be signed during the month of January 2023, it is imperative that projects worth Rs 219 crore are awarded by December 2022. It must be noted that all the processes are being followed for tendering and awarding of projects. They are done only after the required approvals have been obtained from the NDB,” Kumar said.
Kumar also said that all the statutory and legal compliances are being met and followed by the Meghalayan Age Limited.
“A few aspects of how Externally Aided Projects (EAPs) are funded, sanctioned and implemented need to be clearly understood to appreciate the State’s emphasis on these projects. First, for the northeastern states, EAP money is almost equivalent to a grant from the Government of India. The Government of India borrows the project cost as a soft loan from external agencies and 90 per cent of it is provided as a grant to Meghalaya. The State will only have to repay 10 per cent of the project cost over a 12-20 year period at the most nominal interest rates. Thus, EAP money is the cheapest source of funding and is almost equivalent to a grant from the Government of India for our State. All the processes, norms and rules are being followed with regard to the finances and awarding of the project,” he said.