Tura: As soon as the sun sets, darkness engulfs Meghalaya’s Kantanangre village in West Garo Hills district. The entire village is reeling under darkness in the absence of electricity for close to a decade after the transformer in the village developed a snag.

Kantanangre is situated in Dadenggiri block of West Garo Hills and the constituency is represented by three-time MLA and minister James Sangma.

Nokma (headman) of the village Withison M Marak said, “Our transformer went kaput during a thunderstorm in the monsoon of 2014. As we had no other choice, we went to the office of the MeECL, Phulbari, to inform them about the situation. But we were informed that we had pending dues of over Rs 3 lakh, which was shocking as we only had around 55 households out of which 28 had BPL connections.”

He added, “The MeECL had asked us to pay Rs 1.5 lakh or else the transformer would not be repaired for the restoration of electricity.”

Social activist Peter A Sangma, a resident of Phulbari in West Garo Hills, was shocked to know that the hamlet has been reeling under darkness due to the absence of electricity for the past several years. “We went to a small grocery store that also served tea after visiting a few illegal stone quarries in the village of Magalpara. As one of our phones was running out of battery, we asked if we could charge our phone when the shop owner told us something that left us in absolute shock. The village has been without electricity since 2014,” Sangma said.

“Most of the villagers had been paying their electricity bills regularly as bills were provided after every 3 months. But how the bill shot up to Rs 3 lakh was beyond our understanding. As the department was unwilling to repair the transformer, we somehow managed an electrician to repair the faulty transformer, and electricity was restored,” the Nokma said.

The MeECL department officials came to the village and immediately disconnected the transformer and took it with them, he added.

“Why our entire village had to be disconnected from an essential service if only 5 to 6 households had to clear their pending bills? The department should have disconnected their lines and forced them to pay but we had to bear the brunt of the department’s highhandedness when most of us are using the BPL lines which had bills of only Rs 80-100 per month,” said Withison.

Left with no other option, the villagers also approached their local MLA, James Sangma, but would return empty-handed as despite their repeated visits and pleadings, nothing changed.

“We have lost hope as no one is willing to help us. Most of us are daily wage earners. When others are being benefitted from the Saubhagya scheme, we have been once again left out. Our lives mean nothing to anyone it seems,” said a villager.

The only solution left with us is either to get solar panels or a generator but only a few will be able to afford it, the villager said.

Currently, there are over 90 households in the village with more than 300 voters.

“Our children have been affected as they aren’t not being able to study during the evenings. Some of the children and residents have laptops but they cannot charge them. We have to shut shops early in the village as everything gets dark after sunset. We charge our phones and other essentials through small solar panels just to stay in touch with the world,” added another villager.

 

When contacted, FEDCO, the company that took over from the MeECL, said that they were aware of the village but added that they were never approached by the villagers for a solution.

“The villagers should come and approach us with their problems. The issue is that they have a huge pending bill due to which the transformer from their village was removed. The villagers can approach us and we will try and work out a solution. As a company, we cannot condone non-payment of bills. But if they approach us, we can definitely do something to solve the matter,” an official of FEDCO said.

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