Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Curious Case of the Silchar - Dwarbond Road

Silchar - Phaisen Road. Photo Courtesy:
The students of Assam University and the residents of the villages near the campus have erupted in protests against the poor condition of the Silchar – Dwarbond – Phaisen road. Twice they have marched to the Deputy Commissioner’s office this month demanding immediate repairs of the road.  

While immediate patchwork of the dilapidated road has already commenced, there is no clarity yet on the plans to reconstruct the road properly so that it stays in motorable condition for some years at least and does not give in within months.

While media reports have claimed that 22 crores have been sanctioned for the reconstruction and broadening of the road, some other media reports say that Cachar’s Deputy Commissioner GM Hazarika is still awaiting the government’s nod on the sanctioning of the amount required to relay the road.

Amidst this confusion, some documents available with Concern For Silchar suggest that huge amount of funds meant for the construction work has been allegedly misused in the last few years resulting in the deplorable condition of the road which carries thousands of students to the university every day.  

·         According to the North Eastern Council (NEC)’s website, the construction work of the Silchar – Phaisen road was supposed to be completed by March, 2013. However, it is common knowledge that the road has been in a terrible state at least for the last three years. So, if the work was supposed to be completed only this year, couldn’t the authorities force the contractors to repair the damaged sections again? Please check this link for further clarification:

·         As recently, as July, 2013, the Executive Engineer of the Public Works Department, NEC has reported to the Deputy Commisioner, Hailakandi that “the works of the Silchar-Dwarbond-Gaglacherra-Phaisen road under NEC’s 10th 5 year plan, 23 km in between 31 km and 53 km has already been completed and handed over to state roads, Karimganj and 18 km in between 54 km and 75.275 km has also been completed, remaining 3.775 km mostly surfacing work to be done which are in progress and expected to be completed by December, 2013”. Therefore, the construction work on the entire stretch is yet to be completed. So, why can’t the contractor be asked to repair the damaged sections? ( 

·         The above mentioned report says that parts of the road have been handed over to PWD, Karimganj already. But the question is, when the quality of construction of the said road was so shoddy, why did PWD take possession of the road? Didn’t they ask NEC to hand over the road in top condition?

·         Moreover, when the road is located in Cachar and Hailakandi, why has it been put under the jurisdiction of PWD, Karimganj? It is obvious that Karimganj’s officials would not be able to travel to Silchar frequently to take stock of the condition of the road.

·         Most importantly, when the construction work of the road with the money sanctioned under NEC’s 10th 5 year plan is yet to be completed, under which head is the government sanctioning more money? Doesn’t it suggest that the main intention of the entire exercise is to get more and more sanction and make more money?

·         Moreover, all road contracts nowadays have elaborate maintenance clauses. Didn’t this particular contract have any such clause?

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) which is spearheading the agitation must file multiple RTI applications to NEC, Silchar, PWD Roads, Karimganj and the Deputy Commissioner’s office, Cachar to get the replies to these queries.
In addition, whenever the construction work commences again, the JAC must appoint its own monitoring committee comprising of students, villagers and retired civil engineers to monitor the quality of work as well the transparency of the entire tendering procedure. We simply cannot let some unscrupulous people usurp public money so easily again and again.   

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Silchar through the Lense