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Investigation urged amid allegations against Shimla Water Utility SJPNL

Shimla, Aug 7

Amid mounting concerns of corruption and financial irregularities within the Shimla Jal Nigam Prabandhan Limited (SJNPL), a water utility responsible for water and sewage in the Shimla Planning Area, demand for a thorough investigation has intensified. The utility’s performance-based contracts have come under scrutiny, with bid prices reportedly soaring from Rs 450 crore to an alarming Rs 900 crore in just a few months. In a media meet, convener of Forum against corruption Tikender Singh Panwar has urged the Himachal Pradesh state government to institute a Commission of Inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act 1952.

The former Deputy Mayor of Shimla advocates for the appointment of a retired judge, preferably hailing from Himachal Pradesh, to lead a Commission to enquire into this alleged irregularity.

Also read: Controversial tender award for 24x7water supply to Shimla cancelled
He informed that in the previous bid (last time) the NPV of the first and second bidder was Rs 693 crore and 683 crore, respectively.  This was canceled due to huge difference between the budget and the bids.  “ However six months later this time both the firms have further escalated the price considerably and this effort smacks of deep – rooted cartelization as well.  The bids are at Rs 815, and 794 crore, respectively, he informed.  “How can there be such a big increase in the cost in just six months?”, questioned Panwar.

The proposed investigation aims not only to delve into the financial losses incurred by the utility but also to uncover systemic failures in policy frameworks over the past decades, which have contributed to recurrent disasters in the region.

Taking an example of contracts awarded for managing the Sewage treatment plants, he informed that the total Govt. exchequer loss / excess amount was Rs.722 lakh per year emulating to a total difference of 2166 lakh in three years, which needs to be probed.

Also read: Inverse the water supply model for Shimla city: Former Dy Mayor Tikender Panwar
In case of Malyana treatment plant, the total award value for Operations and maintenance of this plant was Rs 26 lakh per annum till 2015. However after SJPNL was formed in 2018, the same award value went up to Rs 184 lacs, which should be looked into, he asserted.

Panwar argues that the SJNPL’s unchecked functioning and lack of democratic oversight have allowed corruption to fester, leading to the unjust inflation of contract prices. The need for immediate intervention and prosecution of those responsible is emphasized, with calls to transfer the utility’s responsibilities to the Shimla Municipal Corporation, an elected institution championed by the 74th constitutional amendment and endorsed by recent World Bank reports on urban infrastructure.

Here it is pertinent to mention that contrary to claims of various State governments, water supply in Shimla, has not improved substantially even after the formation of SJPNL. Mostly water supply in the city remains erratic as in summers water dries up, in rainy season muck in the water takes toll and many parts of the town are deprived from potable water supply for even 4-5 days in a row.

Also read:Inverse the water supply model for Shimla city: Former Dy Mayor Tikender Panwar
As the controversy continues to unravel, the spotlight remains on the urgent necessity for a comprehensive inquiry into the SJNPL’s operations and the broader policy landscape, seeking to bring transparency, accountability, and improved governance to Shimla’s vital water and sewage systems.

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