Athena drags Arunachal govt into its financial mess

[ Tongam Rina ]
ITANAGAR, Mar 7: The Athena Infraprojects Pvt Ltd has moved the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) impleading Arunachal Pradesh as one of the respondents, as the company battles corporate insolvency.
Athena Infraprojects Pvt Ltd is the parent company of Athena Demwe Power Ltd, the proponent of the proposed 1,750 MW (Demwe Lower) and 1,080 MW (Demwe Upper) in Lohit district.
The Arunachal government holds 26 percent in Athena Demwe Power Ltd.
When contacted, an official of the Power department said that counsels for the government of Arunachal are examining the case.
Speaking to this daily, a government source said that Arunachal is not keen to get involved in the mess.
“We were not made a party when they took the loan and we don’t know where the money was used”, the source said
Earlier, the Athena Demwe Power Limited had said that it wants the government of Arunachal to bail it out after the Indian Bank took them to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) after the company failed to clear the debts.
The Athena group owes Rs 333.80 crore to the Indian Bank, a national public sector bank and others.
The National Company Law Tribunal had ordered the commencement of Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process against Athena Demwe Power Limited, the project proponent of Run-of-the-River 1750 MW Demwe Lower Project on 28 September, 2017 as it called on the creditors to submit their claims.
The company had then challenged the order of the National Company Law Tribunal of 28 September before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, which came up for hearing on 6 February.
Then, the lawyers appearing on behalf of the company had said it has approached the Arunachal Pradesh government, with 26 per cent of the equity shareholding in the company, to ensure the payment agreed amount to the bank.
However, the lawyers appearing for the Indian Bank and others had said that they were yet to receive any information on involving Arunachal Pradesh.
During its latest hearing, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal said that resolution process will continue in the meantime as it posted the next hearing for 27 March.
On 28 September last year, the NCLT was told that Athena Demwe Power Ltd approached the bank for financial assistance in the form of term loan and other financial assistance for setting up a major power generating project in the North East.
Given the size of the project, it had sought funding from several banks which approved and sanctioned various limits.
A short term loan of Rs 200 crores in 2011 and another Rs 100 crores was granted to be repaid in six months. Since the company failed to regularize the account, it was declared a non-performing asset on 31 May, 2013.
The court was further told that the corporate guarantees of M/s AIP Private Limited, Athena Energy Ventures Pvt Ltd and Athena Infraprojects Ltd were accepted by way of pledge of their shares as collateral security and all terms and conditions of disbursement were duly accepted by the company.
Apart from the insolvency, the company is mired in controversy as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had suspended the Stage-I and Stage-II forest clearances to 1750 (MW) Demwe Lower in October 2017, stating that former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s decision to overrule the non-official expert members of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to clear the Demwe Lower Project was taken in violation of laid down rules.
The former minister in 2012 had overruled the concerns of expert members regarding downstream impacts to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park and Biosphere Reserve, as well as the Kamlang Sanctuary, following which conservationist Bimal Gogoi had challenged the forest clearance before the NCLAT.
The NCLAT had also directed the Standing Committee of the NBWL to reconsider the issue and pass appropriate orders within six months. It also said that until then, stages I and II forest clearances issued in March 2012 and May 2013 respectively, and the consequential order of the state government allowing diversion of 1415.92 ha forest land for the hydel project, will stand suspended.
The standing committee of the NBWL visited the 1750 MW Demwe Lower Hydroelectric Project in Lohit district to re-examine the ecological impacts of the hydro power project following a decision by the Environment Ministry after a decision by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The visit was not without controversy as the three-member team consisting of RD Kamboj, IFS GEER Foundation, Gujarat on deputation to govt NGO in Gujarat, DPBankhwal of National Tiger Conservation Authority, Guwahati and Dr Gopi GV Scientist with Wildlife Institute of India stayed at the Athena group’s campus in Parshuram Kund instead of making use of the state government’s facilities.