Sunday, August 18, 2013

Public Money is being looted in Barak Valley..


A German engineer who worked in the Konkan Railway project in western India had once said that, India seems like the richest nation in the world because of the manner in which its public sector projects are delayed and costs are allowed to escalate. Even the developed countries would not be able to afford such luxuries. The gentleman had also expressed dismay on the ease with which errant officials and contractors are let off the hook for shoddy execution of projects.
This statement is extremely justified and apt for Barak Valley, where thousands of crores of public money has flown down the river Barak and no action has ever been taken against any government official, political leader or contractor.

In fact, delaying a project has become a superb way to make money out of infrastructure projects. The modus operandi is indeed very simple – initially delay the project so much that it fails to meet the deadline, then take the corrupt officials and leaders into confidence and site some frivolous reasons for the delay to seek more funds and milk the cow as long as you can.

The foundation stone for Silchar's storm water drainage project. Nobody seems to know the fate of the project today. Copyright: www.concernforsilchar.blogspot.com
For example, the construction cost of the Lumding – Silchar broad gauge project has escalated about four times from Rs. 648 crores to a whopping Rs. 4,255 crores. In depth investigation might reveal that the project is being delayed intentionally to escalate the cost further so that more public money can be siphoned off. Similar figures would also emerge from the ambitious Mahasadak project connecting Silchar with Saurashtra.

Another common practice is the mysterious clearance of bills by the concerned departments for payments to the contractors despite poor and shoddy execution of work without adhering to the prescribed guidelines. Often our political leaders make loud announcements about the sanction of funds for projects but those very projects never see the light of the day. And even if they are finished, the construction quality is so poor that the public gets no benefit from them. However, quite inexplicably, the bills for these projects are cleared after the issue of the mandatory quality and completion certificates.

The now infamous coterie of political leaders, government babus and contractors has become so brazen and thick skinned that no amount of public protests or criticism deters or scares them. Take the example of retired Cachar Zila Parishad CEO Bahnishikha Dutta. The Assam Civil Service officer who is accused of siphoning off Rs. 1.43 crores from the Panchayat funds was arrested in Kolkata a few months back, but thanks to her high connections, she immediately managed a bail. No progress has been made in the case so far.

At times, to satisfy the public, fake tears are also shed by these unscrupulous people. Recently, Assam minister and Karimganj heavyweight Siddique Ahmed announced that he is going to sit on a hunger strike against the delay in construction of National Highway 44 (now HN 6) in his constituency. Ironically, the road also comes under the purview of the very government he represents. Isnt it a joke that he has chosen to sit on a hunger strike for a project which is being done by his own government?

Another classic example is the double laning project of the Silchar – Kalain road. The project scheduled to be completed by March 2012 is yet to be completed and whatever work has so far been done is of such poor quality that portions of the completed road are already showing signs of wear and tear. The engineers of the North Eastern Council (NEC), which is maintaining the road have been gheraod a few times by angry residents but nobody seems to have the guts to touch the Budhmal Baid owned ABCI, the contractor for the project, which enjoys tremendous political as well as financial clout in the entire north east.

As per some documents available on the Cachar district’s official website, NEC’s executive engineer (PWD) informed the district administration in November last year that the contractor for the Silchar – Kalain road has failed to make satisfactory progress because of “scarcity of forest material following ban by the Hon’ble Supreme Court”. Now if this reason is sufficient for the inordinate delay of the project than shouldn’t all road projects across the nation get delayed as Supreme Court’s verdict has to be followed by everyone? Indeed, the reason given could not have been more frivolous and idiotic.  

If the quantum of loss of public money in various projects due to cost escalation and corruption is calculated in Barak Valley for the last five years, the figure would be at least three thousand crores. In front of such colossal loss, the thousand crore carrot shown by Tarun Gogoi seems insignificant.

Let us take a look at some projects which have proved to be milking cows for the racket of political leaders, government officials and contractors:

Name of the project
Project Cost/ Cost escalation
Status of the project
Silchar – Lumding Broad Gauge conversion project
 From Rs. 648 crores to Rs. 4255.37 crores
The project was scheduled to be completed by 2006. Now the next deadline is March, 2015.
Assam portions of National Highway 44 (now called NH 6)
Approximately Rs. 200 crores
Repair works were carried out in different parts of the highway in both Cachar and Karimganj. Wear and tear visible in most of the repaired stretches within a year of work.
Repairing of Silchar’s roads
Rs. 63 crores from the Central Road Fund (CRF)
The fund was allotted during Congress leader Sontosh Mohan Dev’s tenure as Union Minister. Some funds were allegedly blocked by Dispur. Whatever construction happened was of such poor quality that no significant change could be seen on the ground. Subsequently, within a couple of years, the same roads had to repaired again with new funds.
Silchar Storm Water Drainage Project
Rs. 170 crores
The work was started by central PSU NBCC. They left the work midway. Nobody knows where the money went after the fiasco.
Silchar – Phaisen road connecting Silchar with NIT, Assam University, Hailakandi and Mizoram
Rs. 97.10 crores
The work was done in an extremely shoddy manner. Apart from the concretization of about 15 wooden bridges nothing significant happened as the new road gave in within months. The people of the region are already agitating for repairs of the road and apparently some more funds have already been sanctioned. However, NEC’s website shows that the work is scheduled to be completed by March, 2013 and was originally to be done by 2008. So, if the work has just been completed, then under which head has further funds been sanctioned?
Silchar – Kalain Road
Rs. 59.25 crores
Work was scheduled to be completed by March, 2012 has not yet been done. Locals have complained of extremely poor construction quality. Innumerable complaints to NEC officials and local MLAs have not helped.

·         This table has been prepared only from sources available in the media. It only presents an overall picture. Concern For Silchar cannot vouch for the accuracy of the figures mentioned above.
Rs. 97.10 crores were sanctioned for the Silchar - Phaisen road. It doesn't look like a 97 crore road. Isn't it? Copyright: www.concernforsilchar.blogspot.com
 
The table above has only mentioned about the projects taken up in the infrastructure sector. Apart from these, funds come to the three districts of the valley under various heads such as education, irrigation, rural development, border area development etc. There are innumerable central government schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA), Indira Awas Yojana, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana etc. All these are nothing but milking cows for the coterie mentioned before. The upcoming food security bill will be another lucrative addition to this list. Despite provisions such as the Right to Information (RTI), there is very little transparency regarding the release of funds to these departments and their utilization. The ignorance of the masses to stand up for their rights further makes it easier for the corrupt lot to execute their  evil designs.

Just imagine if all this money had been utilized properly in the valley.  We probably would have figured among the most developed regions in the country….

2 comments:

  1. This politicians just try to grab attention by making false statement. Instead of taking up the cause of NH 44 which Minister Siddique Ahmed claimed , he is busy laying foundation stones and attending meetings with lady school inspector whom he got appointed last year with his political clout. It's also a major concern that deserving and efficient candidates of Barak valley don't get Government Job due to interferences of politicians.

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  2. Silchar politicians are a mother fucker dey dont want any devrlopement

    ReplyDelete

Silchar through the Lense