Darjeeling, June 14: At a time when National Highway 55 has been left battered by Cyclone Aila, enlisted contractors for the road that connects Siliguri to Darjeeling has decided to stop work.
M.K. Khatri, the secretary of the National Highway Contractors’ Association, said: “Despite several requests, the NH authorities have not cleared Rs 6 crore, which have accrued since 1992.”
“Unless the outstanding amount is cleared or at least our bills for 2007-08 are paid, we have no alternative but to stop emergency work along the highway,” he added.
About 150 contractors are members of the association and their decision to stop work is likely to affect highway repair. Most of the unpaid amounts, it has been learnt, come under the Flood Damage Repair head which belongs to the non-plan budget. For non-plan projects, money is not allocated at the beginning of the financial year. Rather it is disbursed as and when the expenses are incurred.
Dhurba Chakraborty, the superintendent engineer of NH Circle III, admitted the existence of the outstanding dues. “These were works done under the non-plan head and clearance of bills is the sole prerogative of the authorities in Delhi,” he said over the phone from Siliguri.
Chakraborty added that a temporary repair after the recent landslides had been completed. “We now need to do some long term work and have already submitted an estimate to the NHAI. We will execute the plan only after we receive funds from the Centre.”
Around Rs 50 crore is needed for long term restoration of the NH55. Even if the amount is immediately sanctioned, the contractors’ association is unlikely to start work unless a written assurance to clear the dues is given by the NH authorities. After Cyclone Aila struck, there were as many as 20 landslides on NH55.