Thursday, February 14, 2013

Govt hands over Poonch power scam to Vigilance

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today ordered suspension of seven Engineers including a Chief Engineer and action against six others (totaling 13) after an Inquiry Committee headed by Principal Secretary, Power AK Mehta found "serious lapses’’ in installation of transmission towers in Poonch that led to complete power failure in the border district on January 18 after normal snowfall.

Omar, who holds the portfolio of Power Development Department, has handed over the case to the State Vigilance Organisation (SVO) for further investigations as five Engineers involved in the lapses and financial irregularities have retired.

"Seven serving Engineers, who were at the helm of affairs at the time of procurement and installation of transmission towers, have been suspended while six others involved in the scam have retired. Of six retired Engineers, one has been absconding while another has expired. Action against the retired and absconding Engineers would be taken by the Vigilance Organisation’’, official sources told the Excelsior.

Excelsior had today exclusively reported that the Chief Minister has ordered action against the erring Engineers on the basis of preliminary inquiry conducted by a high level Committee headed by Mr Mehta, which confirmed various lapses in the installation of transmission towers in Poonch.

After approval of the file by Chief Minister and Minister of State for Power Vikar Rasool, Mr Mehta today issued a Government Order No. 36 PDD of 2013 dated 14-2-2013 suspending seven Engineers from the services. The suspended officers would remain attached with the office of the Development Commissioner (Power) during the period of suspension.

The suspended Engineers were Mohammad Qasim, Chief Engineer, Procurement & Material Management, J&K (then Executive Engineer), Devinder Pal Singh Bali, Executive Engineer, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, Rajouri-Poonch (then AEE), Nissar Hussain, Executive Engineer, Commercial Division, Jammu (C&S wing) (then AEE), Rajeev Chopra, Assistant Engineer, EM&RE Division-II, Jammu (then Junior Engineer Store), Sumit Puri, JE Electric Central Stores Division, Jammu (then JE), Barkat Hussain, JE TLCD-I, Jammu (then JE) and Murrir Hussain, AEE, EM&RE Division Batote, Sub Division Banihal (then JE).

Of six retired Engineers, who were involved in the scam, one has since died while another was absconding as he couldn’t be traced. They would be investigated by the Vigilance Organisation along with seven serving Engineers.

Sources said the Inquiry Committee headed by Mr Mehta and comprising Chief Engineer (Designs) Vinod Khajuria among others had found that a total of 245 transmission towers had been installed in the border district of Poonch during 2005-2008, which were commissioned in 2011.

"Instead of purchasing the transmission towers from three specified companies including Public Sector Undertakings SAIL, the then PDD Engineers went for purchase from another company reportedly for undue benefits’’, sources said.

They added that the towers turned out to be sub standard, which was evident from the fact that within two years of commissioning, most of them were either uprooted or got folded with normal snowfall and windstorm.

"As the border district of Poonch was prone to snowfall, the transmission towers had to be of high density and top quality to ensure that they withstand impact of windstorm and snowfall. However, the sub standard quality towers were uprooted with normal snowfall on January 18 this year leading to disruption of electricity supply as 133 KV transmission line in Poonch district was made non functional’’, sources said.

They added that the Enquiry Committee has also pointed out that in addition to sub standard towers and use of other material, there was also fault in dimensional installation, due to which the towers were uprooted. "This indicated lack of technical expertise in installation of towers’’, they said.

Sources said the Vigilance Organisations would investigate the aspect of monetary considerations in installation of transmission towers as the case has been handed over to them. The Vigilance Organisation would be formally submitted entire record pertaining to purchase of towers and preliminary report of the Inquiry Committee for registration of a case and initiating further action in the matter.

"As the Engineers went for purchases from a company, which didn’t figure among three companies approved for purchases by the State Government, there was every possibility that the sub standard towers were purchased due to monetary considerations’’, sources said.

The added that the PDD top brass was also examining installation of existing transmission towers right from Bafliaz to Thanna Mandi to look into their quality and ensure that they too were not uprooted during further snowstorm.

"Some of the existing towers could also be in danger’’, sources said but added that the authorities would take precautionary measures for them so that they withstand windstorm or snowfall.

Worthwhile to mention here that on January 18, windstorm and normal snowfall had uprooted several transmission towers and folded others leading to failure of 133 KV transmission line in Poonch, which disrupted power supply in the entire border district.

The district was now being fed from 33 KV transmission line from Mendhar.

As reported, the Government has released funds and taken the help of Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCI) for repair work and restoration of electricity supply in Poonch district. The Government hoped that electricity supply would be completely restored in Poonch in one and a half months.

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