Strange are the ways of the bureaucracy. A private firm that had spent about Rs 1,000 crore for laying 329 km of roads in Nagaland, with little visible results on the ground, will again be in the running when the project is re-tendered next month, with the cost having tripled to Rs 3,000 crore, according to officials.
The project -- part of the central government's Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in North East (SARDP-NE) -- was to be executed by the Nagaland PWD in 2010 at a cost of Rs 1,130.66 crore.
However, private company Gayatri Constructions, which was awarded the work, spent six times more than the estimated cost just for earthwork and almost ran through the original budget. This had led to a dispute between the authorities and the contractor, following which the latter abandoned the project.
The matter remained in various courts till last year, when the Supreme Court ordered the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) to re-tender the project. The court also directed the ministry and the Nagaland government to ensure the project is completed within 42 months.
The stretches include the 35-km Longleng-Changtongya Road, the 100 km Tamlu-Merangkong road, 66-km Phek-Phutsero Road and the 128-km Zunheboto-Chakambama road. The fresh tenders will now be issued by the National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) -- a three-year-old PSU under MoRTH.
As part of the re-tendering process, officials from the Nagaland government and the ministry recently held several deliberations and finalised the formalities, including a fresh Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the four roads, which will also ease connectivity between Nagaland and other northeastern states.
"We have got a fresh DPR made and are in a position to issue the tenders either by December 2017 or January 2018," a senior official said.
Emphasising that the road projects can become lifelines in remote parts of Nagaland, the government says that the stretches will also boost trade in the state, helping it to be at par with Assam, which is doing better economically.
Sources in the ministry have said that after the tendering process, the government will monitor every phase of the work and will fine the contractors if the work is delayed.
"We do not want any type of dispute this time like what had happened earlier. There has been a huge loss to the exchequer as the project cost has risen from Rs 1,100 crore to Rs 3,000 crore. Strict measures will be taken against the contractors if the work is delayed or not performed as per the standards," the official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Asked if the government would prevent Gayatri Constructions from participating in the tender due to its failure to execute the work given by the Nagaland PWD, the official said that they still had the right to participate in the tender as they were not debarred by the government.
"We cannot stop Gayatri Constructions from participating in the fresh tenders until they are officially debarred," the official said.
NHIDCL also has the mandate to execute several road projects in Nagaland, including NH-39 that connects Dimapur and Kohima -- considered Nagaland's main business route which is in a pathetic state during the monsoon.
The PSU, created in 2014, has recently been given the task of constructing over 4,000 km of roads in the northeast and Jammu and Kashmir. It was established after the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and Public Works Departments of the states failed to carry out road construction in many remote parts in hilly terrain.
(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at Rupesh.firstname.lastname@example.org)
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