Staff Correspondent

SHILLONG, March 17: The fund-starved Meghalaya Power Department is yet to avail of the second instalment of the Rs 1345.72-crore Atmanirbhar Bharat loan despite expiry of the Centre’s deadline of March 15 set for this purpose.

The Atmanirbhar loan scheme was launched for struggling power distribution companies around the country to clear outstanding dues to Central public sector undertakings. The loan has been sanctioned under the Centre’s liquidity infusion scheme.

The Meghalaya Power Distribution Corporation Limited (MePDCL) has already availed of Rs 386.86 crore from the first tranche of the loan and cleared some outstanding dues to Central PSUs like the NTPC, which had earlier regulated power supply leading to load-shedding in the State.

Significantly, the MePDCL has failed to send a request to the Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) and the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) – the sanctioning agencies of the loan – for release of the second tranche of funds.

Meanwhile, the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO) has threatened to regulate power supply to Meghalaya till its outstanding dues are released immediately.

In a letter to the Secretary to the Meghalaya Power Department, Pravin Bakshi, the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Power, Tanmay Kumar, had warned that the remaining amount of the loan would be liable to be withdrawn unless the MePDCL requested disbursal of the remaining amount by March 15.

“The MePDCL may be advised to request REC and PFC to disburse the remaining installment to NEEPCO within 15th March, 2021, failing which the sanction of the loan would be liable to be withdrawn,” Kumar had said.

Meghalaya Power Minister James Sangma, however, maintained that the last date for withdrawal should have been March 31 “technically”, but the department would now process the paper work and send the request.

Meanwhile, Kumar said the Central power generation companies, particularly NEEPCO, face an acute liquidity crunch. “For a small company like NEEPCO, the outstanding dues receivable from the MePDCL of about Rs 504 crore has become an unbearable burden as routine operational expenditure has to be borne through funds raised from the market at exorbitant cost,” he added.

Meanwhile, in another letter the NEEPCO has posted on its website, the GENCO said that it would regulate the 147.53-MW power supply to the State from March 20 unless the MePDCL cleared its dues.

The NEEPCO said that the dues have pending since the last 45 days and now it is left with no other option but to exercise regulation of power.

The State may go under another load-shedding regime in view of this development.