The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government seems to have gone into hyper speed mode with regards to the implementation of the centrally sponsored Subhagya Scheme in the state which envisages state wide installation of smart meters for subsequent digital billing and payment for electricity use.
Presently, a 4-member team led by Shailendra Dubey has been deputed by Satnam Global, the North India based company that bagged the Rs 232 Cr scheme to impart a breakneck speed training to all MeECL staff who will be engaged in the process of billing by the corporation even amidst a crushing pandemic. It arrived in the state on June 15 and immediately got to the task, caring two hoots for the safety concerns of scores of staffs of the MeECL.
The team clearly violated all laid down and established norms of Covid protocols and it remains unnoticed till date. They arrived in the state on their own and straightaway announced that they all possessed Covid Negative certificates so training could begin immediately without any rest or nominal quarantine.
Why the high pace of urgency in finishing the training even as people are dealing with more pressing matters due to the havoc created by the pandemic; no one seems to have an answer.
“Their mission is to give training on UGO Billing Software implementation in MeECL by M/S Satnam Global Infrastructure,” explained a well embedded source in the corporation, adding, “They said they are having Negative Covid Test Report, who signed no one knows.”
Utility On The GO (UGO) is a software that has been developed for digital billing of public utilities in the gas, water and power domains. While it has been tried in the first two domains, it is yet to do a regular run in the power domain, the top official explained.
The training is scheduled till June 22 and will cover three zones that include Shillong and Khasi Hills Circle under Central Zone, Tura, East & West Garo Hills Circle under Western Zone, while Eastern Zone comprises of Ri-Bhoi and Jaiñtia Hills Circle. It is being held on different dates in five locations across the state; at the Corporation’s headquarters here at Lumjingshai, Tura, Williamnagar, HRD Umiam and Jowai and is being coordinated by two persons from the Delhi team Avaneesh and Bhanu.
Each circle consists of 20 people so in all at least 160 regular employees are undergoing compulsory training in operating a billing software never ever tried or tested anywhere in the country, elaborated the source while expressing concern “that too during the pandemic…even the smart meter installation is going on at a very fast pace perhaps faster than the vaccination I would say”, adding, “Besides the targeted employees, there will have to be other staff too, to look after the requirements throughout the duration of the training sessions.”
The worried sounding official said, “If it has been used to generate power bills before in any part of the country it is unknown to us and whether the same principles will be applied to power billing are compatible or not remains unclear,” while emphasising, “But what we are more worried and concerned about is why the rush with absolutely no care for the safety of the employees amidst this pandemic where so many people are infected and even dying. How will smart meters even work in rural areas when they don’t even have power.”
While the entire logistics of transport, stay etc. of the team has been borne by Satnam Global Infrastructure, the cost of the software is yet to be confirmed said a source while hinting that “it is rumoured to be around Rs 70 Cr,” an amount that is sure to raise quite a few eyebrows if not already.
“You see if the implementation of the new billing system completes earlier than scheduled and roll out of smart billing commences, then payment due to Satnam will be released immediately,” the official clarified.
Efforts to enquire more into the antecedents of the multi crore software’s developer revealed sketchy information and is only available on the UGO website https://www.ugoerp.com/ but the primary question here is, why the panic rush to implement the untimely over advanced form of utility billing while precious lives are being snatched from us right before our very own eyes.