Shimnit-Utsch vice-president in Shillong Why is M’laya paying the highest price for HSRP?

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: Shimnit-Utsch Vice President Ms Eva Danenza is in Shillong probably to wrangle an extension of the contract between the Company and the Meghalaya Government. Transport Minister AT Mondal had earlier taken strong exception to the company’s inability to complete the fixing of High Security Registration Plate (HSRP) within 6 working days which is stipulated in the contract. The Transport Minister had in fact refused to meet junior official of the company thereafter.

The State Government implemented the HSRP in August 2006. There was an outcry from a small section of transporters. The JACC, an NGO, had objected and asked for cancellation of the contract. The Government came down heavily on the dissenters and Meghalaya became the first state in the country to implement the HSRP.

Speaking to The Shillong Times, the Transport Minister said he had earlier given strict warning to Shimnit to adhere to the terms of the agreement failing which the Government would have to cancel the contract with the company. When asked if he was aware that the HSRP charges depended on the dollar rate Mondal said he would look into the details and bring up this issue and others when he meets with the vice-president of Shimnit Utsch on Monday.

Mondal said he had been on the job ever since complaints of non-timely delivery of vehicles by the embossing stations reached his ears. It was at his initiative that Shimnit was pulled up for the first time. When asked if the Government would consider revoking the contract with the company, Mondal said, “Even now they have a huge backlog of vehicles to be fitted with HSRP. I have asked them to complete all within a month or two and we shall review the decision.”

Shimnit Utsch an India-German collaborative venture which claimed to have the technical and financial wherewithal to implement the HSRP project became the favoured bidder of the Meghalaya Government. But the company has not been upfront. One of the terms of the contract is that the pricing of HSRP would vary with the fluctuating rate of the dollar. But from 2006 till date this has not taken effect. Clause 2.4.2 of the agreement says “In case a new price notification is issued by the State Government to give effect to change in taxes, value of US dollar or for any other reasons, the Concessionaire (Shimnit) will collect the newly notified price.

Prices in Meghalaya have remained stationary. Does this mean that the dollar has not fluctuated in so many years? The company should have passed on to the public the benefit from the dollar downslide, say lawyers who read the contract. So where has the money actually gone?

As per the agreement (a copy of which is with The Shillong Times) the company has also violated several clauses in the agreement. It has failed to install generator sets at the embossing stations, till date. This was mandatory as per the contract conditions. Recently, one of the reasons cited for the long queue of vehicles at the embossing station was that “load-shedding was the problem”. Incidentally, the Transport Department either has not read the agreement in detail, or else the babus concerned have been bribed to look the other way. Otherwise, Shimnit-Utsch should have been penalised for violating the clauses of the agreement.

Those in the know say the number plates provided are not as per the standards approved. But no checks have been carried out by the Transport Department of Meghalaya. The contract says the department officials should make periodic checks and surprise checks as well and also monitor and verify the records to ensure that sub-standard materials are not used. Insiders allege that quality of Aluminium shown as sample and the one supplied is different. There are other anomalies which expose the company’s malafide intent.

On November 13, 2007, the Central Road Research Institute, New Delhi wrote to the Meghalaya Government stating that the Conformity of Production (COP) of Shimnit had expired on October 13, 2007. This should have warranted stern action against the company and cancellation of the contract. Instead, the State Government wrote a polite letter to the company asking it to renew the COP. As per the agreement once the COP expires the company should cease to function in Meghalaya. This clearly shows a deep nexus between the Transport Department and Shimnit.

States like West Bengal, Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Goa went to Court to challenge Shimnit’s claim as the sole qualifying agent for HSRPs. The contention of these states is that Shimnit cannot monopolise the HSRP business. In some cases, Shimnit has used its cartels to bid for higher rates so that its own quotations are the lowest. Those interested in checking up the comparative rates quoted by other equally established HSRP manufacturing companies can check details on the website – http://aipvoa.com/page.php?id=24&t=s.

Shimnit quoted Rs 1200, exclusive of taxes for HSRP of all four wheelers in Nagaland, Goa, Karnataka and Delhi. In Meghalaya the amount quoted is Rs 1681.29, whereas in Rajasthan the quote is Rs 978. The highest quotes were for Sikkim and Mizoram at Rs 2035 and Rs 1745 respectively. States like Nagaland, West Bengal etc are yet to implement the HSRP.

In Goa following a huge public outcry on rates and quality of the plates, Government formed a Committee headed by the Chief Secretary which scrutinized the documents provided by Shimnit. They concluded that the company had misled the Government by suppressing facts and urged the Government to revoke the contract with Shimnit Utsch India Pvt Ltd.

In West Bengal, it was detected that Shimnit and its cartel companies, namely Tonnjes Eastern Security Technologies, New Delhi and Real Mazons India Private Ltd, New Delhi, quoted prices which were double the lowest bid of other companies. The Supreme Court order dated May 12, 2010 states that since the rates quoted by other companies in West Bengal are very low (ranging from Rs 500-280), the State can decide on the conditions to be framed for tenders

Source: The Shillong times