Even as the Andhra Pradesh (AP) Government’s move in conducting elections in border villages of Odisha has evoked strong reactions, it has come to light that the neighbouring State is virtually dictating terms in the two States’ collaborative Machkund joint hydroelectric project, which is located within the geographical territory of Odisha in Koraput district.
That makes Odisha the rightful sovereign owner of the project. But surprisingly, Odisha officials have surrendered the authority to AP for reasons best known to them. Notably, the original agreement for the project was signed between pre-Independence Orissa and AP on January14, 1945. The original power sharing agreement was in the ratio: AP 70 per cent, Odisha 30 per cent. But the project has long outlived its financial investment made by both the parties.
However the new Machkund agreement was signed between Odisha and AP on October 23, 2020. As per new agreement, Odisha paid Rs. 27.42 crore to AP in December'2020 in order to acquire additional 20 per cent share of the project. This is bizarre and highly problematic because the project is situated in Odisha and it has already fetched many more times of what AP had invested 70 years ago thus completely outlived the financial arrangements made during pre-independence era.
Where is the question of paying any money whatsoever to the guest party AP to acquire additional share in the project? It is like one is paying an outsider to acquire a share in her or his own house.
As per new agreement, a Project Administrative Committee (PAC) would be notified drawing officials from both the States having Principals Secretaries of Energy Department of both States as Chairman of the committee on rotational basis in every three years. To safeguard the interest the Odisha Government decided that the State Energy Department Principal Secretary would be declared as PAC Chairman for the first three years and according constituted the notification of PAC in November 2020.
Surprisingly, Andhra Pradesh requested to reconsider the decision of Odisha and demanded that their Energy Secretary should be the Chairman of PAC for first three years.Information emanating from power corridors confirm that some Odisha officials are conspiring against interest’s of the State and making attempts to amend the PAC notification in order to declare the AP Energy Secretary as the PAC Chairman for first three years It is not known whether these officials are working on their own or at the behest of some other authority!
Similarly, as per the new agreement, Odisha must have 50 per cent share of manpower deployment (both officers and workers in regular scale) in the project.
However, as on date, Odisha has not deployed any staff in Machkund Project except for a handful of three or four officials for namesake with no authority bestowed on them. The end result of this callousness of officials is that Odisha is unnecessarily paying for AP staffs thereby incurring huge loss every month. Apart from the above glaring lapses on the part of officials leading to financial losses to Odisha, the project is marred with numerous mismanagements by Odisha officials to the extent of virtually surrendering the authority to another State for reasons which defy logic.
In this scenario, the people of the State are hopeful that the Odisha Government would take remedial measures at the earliest and take over the project entirely by negotiating terms with AP in best interests of Odisha.