The smart meter project instituted by the Meghalaya government appears to violate national security rules, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) said today.
In a letter to the Chairman of the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Ltd (MeECL), TMC national spokesperson Saket Gokhale said that the Meghalaya government has circumvented national security rules by awarding the contract for the provision of smart meters to an Indian company, Satnam Global.
However, the letter added, the meters are manufactured by a Chinese company, Inhemeter.
The smart meters being rolled out in Meghalaya “contain a SIM card which connects them to the telecom/internet network,” Gokhale said in the letter, copies of which were sent to Deputy Chief Minister in charge Power, Prestone Tynsong.
On July 23, 2020, the central government amended the General Financial Rules 2017 that “banned bidders from countries that share a land border with India on grounds of national security.”
By offering the contract to Satnam Global, which then purchases the meters from the Chinese firm, the Meghalaya government has “found a way to circumvent the rules,” Gokhale added.
Having a Chinese company provide the smart meters, which are connected to the internet, offers up a way for cyber attacks and the “shutting down of the power infrastructure”. Such attacks by state-backed hackers from China have been confirmed in the past, he said.
“It is baffling that the government of Meghalaya and MeECL still decided to proceed with the installation of China-made smart electricity meters with SIM cards which is also a gross violation of India’s national security policies,” the letter added.
The TMC demanded to know whether clearance was obtained from the central government before the deal for the smart meters was signed, whether security audits were conducted, whether the smart meters were tested for “backdoor vulnerabilities” before the installation process began and whether the Meghalaya government will roll back the project given the security risks.
“This is an important and pressing issue that not only pertains to the security of North East India but also has great ramifications on the power infrastructure and grid of India as a whole,” the TMC added.