SHILLONG, Jan 30 (IANS): Meghalaya has launched various schemes for improving power supplies, including implementing the Rajiv Gandhi rural electrification programme in the three insurgency-affected districts of Garo Hills in western part of the state, an official said.
The government's response came after the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) demanded a "convincing reply" from the Meghalaya government in seven days on the "poor power connectivity" in the interior areas of Garo Hills in return to set free two abducted Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) engineers.
The rebels Jan 24 abducted three engineers -- Apus Pothmi, Bonnieface Majaw and Marshal R. Swer -- at gunpoint from their residential quarters in Garo Hills district, 318 km from Shillong. Swer was later released unharmed.
"A number of initiatives have been taken for improvement of power supply in the whole state and the improvement of Power supply in the three districts of Garo Hills has been a serious concern of the government to fulfil the aspiration of the people of Garo Hills," MeECL director (Distribution) C.D. Saio told IANS.
Brushing aside the GNLA's claims of poor power connectivity in Garo Hills, Saio said the government has launched various development schemes for improving power supply there including construction of 132 KV lines and substations, a generation project in Ganol, village electrification project and providing power supply to poor rural households.
He said the sanction of the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) projects in West Khasi Hills, South Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and East Garo Hills districts was received on March 11, 2008 and the letters awarding the projects there issued only on Jan 6, 2010.
Sai said the delay in awarding these projects was due to the poor response to the tenders due to which dates of submission of tenders had to be extended in several cases.
Moreover, he said 1,481 un-electrified villages were selected as RGGVY beneficiaries while 1,406 electrified villages were identified under the category for improvement of power supply.
"Altogether, 59,044 BPL (below poverty line) households in rural areas of Garo Hills are expected to be energise by December 2012," Saio said, adding that construction of new 33KV lines, five new 33/11KV, 1.6 MVA substations, 11 KV lines, LT Lines and distribution substations are in progress in Garo Hills.
After the engineers' abduction, GNLA's military wing chief Sohan D. Shira had said: "If the government fails to give a convincing reply to the people of Garo Hills, we will have no option but to take another step." Shira added.
However, intelligence agencies and the state police believe the engineers were abducted for ransom by the tribal Garo outfit.
Security forces have intensified their operation in the region to rescue the abducted trio.
The GNLA, headed by police officer-turned outlaw Champion R. Sangma, has unleashed a reign of terror in the three impoverished districts of Garo Hills in the western part of Meghalaya.