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A tale of tardiness in the goal of development

The misfortune is that while the progress of works awarded to the companies engaged in the four-laning of the Nagaon-Dibrugarh stretch of the national highway has been moving at a snail’s pace all along, NHIDCL too has shown eminent failure in mounting pressure on them to accomplish the task within the stipulated timeframe, thus reflecting as eminently on the kind of lackadaisical attitude these companies have when it comes to vital development projects in Assam – and of course in the rest of the Northeast too. There have been three tender terminations so far

DISMAL SCENARIO
*    Nagaon bypass-Ragagara (appointment date – May 23, 2016; work achievement – 12.52%)
*    Rangagara-Kaliabor Tiniali (appointment date – October 23, 2017; work achievement – 0.2%)
*    Dolabari-Jamuguri (appointment date –  September 1, 2017; work achievement – 0.43%)
*    Numaligarh-Jorhat (appointment date – May 23, 2015; work achievement – 13.77%)
*    Demow-Moran bypass (appointment date – August 17, 2016; work achievement – 11.27%)

Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 22: The four-laning of the national highway from the Nagaon bypass to Dibrugarh is progressing at such a tardy pace – thanks to the attitude of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and the construction firms it has engaged – that it could well take over eight years to achieve the objective.
The main responsibility of the project – with huge ramifications for transportation in eastern Assam, which has a huge tourism potential as well – is of NHIDCL, a fully owned company of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. NHIDCL awards different construction works to varied companies, both domestic and international, across the country.
The misfortune is that while the progress of works awarded to the companies engaged in the four-laning of the Nagaon-Dibrugarh stretch of the national highway has been moving at a snail’s pace all along, NHIDCL too has shown eminent failure in mounting pressure on them to accomplish the task within the stipulated timeframe, thus reflecting as eminently on the kind of lackadaisical attitude these companies have when it comes to vital development projects in Assam – and of course in the rest of the Northeast too.
Earlier, NHIDCL had awarded the ambitious project to a Spanish company, M/S Corsam Corvium SA, only to terminate it for slow work. The company had been put into two packages – the four-laning of the Jorhat-Jhanji stretch followed by that of the Jhanji-Demow stretch.
But the termination story had yet to end. Recently, NHIDCL terminated the work of yet another company, M/S Atlanta Limited Mumbai, which had been roped in for the four-laning of the 19-km national highway stretch between Moran bypass and Bogibeel, the estimated project cost being Rs 559.4.6 crore, including land acquisition. The reason was the same: slow work. After the work has been terminated, fresh tenders will now be issued in search of a new company.
On the other hand, even the detailed project report (DPR) for a 40-km-long four-lane connection between Gohpur and Numaligarh, including a bridge over the Brahmaputra, is yet to be ready. The DPR responsibility was given to M/S Louis Berger, the estimated cost of the project being Rs 1,780 crore, including land acquisition.
This being the disheartening story, the stage is set for yet another tale of tardiness, given that pre-monsoon has already set in, to be followed by monsoon during which rains wreak havoc  across the State. The obvious inference is that the work of the project is set to enter yet another phase of slowness.
In Assam, NHIDCL has been given the responsibility of four-laning of highways of length 403 km, the total estimated cost of which stands at a staggering Rs 11,207 crore. However, no one knows when this grand construction project will see fruition. But what one knows is that the people of the State are waiting endlessly for a major development chapter to don their lives. At the same time, travellers, with their harrowing experiences all along, have their precious lives at perpetual risk – and the sheer number of accidents on these roads are a clear pointer to the enormity of such risk.

About the author

Ankur Kalita