Actor Amitabh Bachchan played a part in seven proposed hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, two of them in Tawang.
Energy Development Corporation Ltd (EDCL) had in January 2008 signed an agreement with the Arunachal Pradesh government to develop five hydroelectric projects of various sizes aggregating 201MW in East Kameng district. A year later, EDCL signed MoU for two more projects – the 24MW Tsa Chu-I and 36MW Tsa Chu-II – in Tawang district.
Bachchan was a shareholder in EDCL but resigned as the independent director of its board in July 2011. The EDCL website says the chairman of the firm is Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh. EDCL is one of 50 private firms, including Reliance, L&T, Indiabull, Jindal and Jaiprakash groups featuring in the state government’s 2010 list of independent power producers and central PSUs allotted 133 power projects with a total installed capacity of 41618.40MW. Eight of these proposed projects of 8735MW were awarded to two central PSUs – Shillong-based North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd and NHPC Ltd.
The ‘MoU virus’ as former union minister Jairam Ramesh had coined afflicted the firms that sought to cash in on the National Hydro Power Policy of 2008. The projects were allotted after payment of upfront money that ranged from R1-7 per KW depending on the size of the project. But anti-dam activists sniffed kickbacks in the project allotment. The Itanagar-based Arunachal Citizen’s Right said, ‘Three projects of Rs 4500MW were taken away from PSUs and awarded to private firms because they could not pay the amount.’