A major concern for elected representatives is to facilitate, if not actively push for, developmental works in their constituencies. But some MLAs in Assam are falling short, because they are said to be acting ‘more like contractors than lawmakers’. During the budget session in the Assembly, State PWD Minister Parimal Suklabaidya recently had to call a spade a spade. When a Member complained about the state of roads in his constituency, the Minister spoke of a similar complaint aired in the House earlier by an MLA from Goalpara district. In that case, when enquiries were made, it was found that a sub-contractor involved in the road project in that particular constituency — happened to be a close associate of the MLA raising the complaint! Suklabaidya made the point that awarding a road building contract in a constituency to a contractor ‘not favoured’ by its MLA can be a dicey matter sometimes, for the ‘interference’ is such that it becomes very difficult to execute the work. The upshot is that some PWD road works are not allotted in the first place, whenever the department apprehends trouble. This in turn has hurt development in quite a few constituencies, so the blame should be laid at the door of lawmakers concerned — for their insistence that the works should be done only by contractors of their choice. Thanks to some reforms in the tendering process, e-tenders are nowadays called for works valued above particular threshold amounts. The various bids made, the lowest bidder and other details are all accessible online. The continuing anti-graft drive by Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal is also known to have made officials wary of flouting tendering rules to accommodate interested quarters. This has meant less scope in manipulating award of contracts, so the problem now is interference by those failing to get a finger in the pie. In the past, there were allegations of some MLAs owning or having stakes in contractor agencies, and lobbying hard in various departments to get works allotted to their agencies. Such conflict of interest situations, if not outright corrupt practices, were allowed to persist for long. Barak valley, in particular, suffered much due to this system — there is little infrastructure on ground to show where all the project funds were spent there in all these decades. It is high time the present dispensation in Dispur tightens up the system to ensure that developmental work contracts are properly awarded as well as executed, and that disgruntled elements do not get to throw a spanner in the works just for the heck of it. The pernicious administrative culture of some legislators hogging all developmental work in their constituency for persol benefit or to pay off contractor friends for funding their election campaigns — should end forthwith. When it comes to governce, the electorate now wants concrete outcomes, not excuses.
Boot on other foot