BY Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, July 2: Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the announcement of Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari that 10,000 km of highway construction involving a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore for North East region “though sounds grand, will never see the light of day as his ministry has failed to keep the existing tiol highways in good shape despite repeated pleas by the State government”.
Gogoi said that Nitin Gadkari’s “big announcement” at a recent conference in Guwahati though sounding impressive, will never actually take off against the gloomy backdrop of existing tiol highways in a dilapidated state despite the State government’s repeated pleas that they must be maintained and repaired to keep surface communication in good condition for smooth movement of goods and passengers. “The tiol highways are deteriorating every day thus impeding the smooth flow of traffic. Even the projects executed by the tiol Highway Infrastructure and Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) are yet to take off the ground. If this is the sorry state of affairs, imagine how long it will take to execute projects worth a staggering Rs 1 lakh crore,” he quipped.
The Chief Minister urged Gadkari to ensure that all NH stretches taken over by NHIDCL be made ‘traffic worthy’. Expressing displeasure that no action has been taken by NHIDCL despite its assurance to him at a meeting in Jorhat on March 15 last, Gogoi strongly urged Gadkari to review the performance of NHIDCL over the last one year and to review the decision of entrustment of all major works to the corporation.
Regarding Gadkari’s promise that the Centre will award most of the schemes to contractors from the Northeast, Gogoi said that on the contrary, the Centre has limited the scope of works executed by the State PWD to Rs 50 crore, thus depriving local contractors. “The limit for other States is Rs 100 crore while for Assam it has been drastically reduced to Rs 50 crore. This is totally against the spirit of cooperative federalism reportedly being promoted by the Prime Minister. This policy has also hampered the progress of development of tiol highways in the State,” Gogoi said in a letter to Gadkari today.
Gogoi requested Gadkari to entrust State PWD with projects up to Rs 100 crore as is the practice in other States and construction work more than Rs 50 crore through EPC mode of contract and work up to Rs 50 crore executed on the basis of time proven item rate tender system.
The Chief Minister while expressing apprehension over the ministry’s ‘modified’ policies for implementation of highway projects said it would have an adverse impact on the maintence and development of highways in the State. “Assam has made a significant progress in development and improvement of tiol highway network under Ministry of Road Transport and Highways since 2005. However, introduction of new EPC mode of contract and creation of NHIDCL has slowed down the progress considerably,” he added.
Gogoi said various works have been clubbed into one job to artificially inflate the project cost so as to take it out of the ambit of execution by the State PWD. In this context, the Chief Minister cited the 6-road package of district headquarters connectivity, three projects costing Rs 354 crore and other smaller jobs less than Rs 50 crore under Annual Plan 2014-15, failing to make much headway.