Ranchi, April 8: Honey Kumari, a class II student of Bishop Westcott Girls School in Namkum has to keep an allowance of 45 minutes every day to come to school. For, she has to negotiate a railway crossing that sees trains pass by every half hour during morning rush hours.
Her plight, and that of 1,000 fellow students and hundreds of daily commuters using NH-33 to come to the state capital, would have been far easier had officials of the NH division of the state road construction department managed to stick to the March 31 deadline for completing a much needed flyover-cum-railway overbridge.
Yesterday, an angry high court pulled up the state government for the inordinate delay in completing the 1.7km Namkum railway overbridge, directing senior IAS officer and road construction secretary N.N. Sinha and others to appear before it on April 11 to explain.
Not surprisingly, NH division engineers are resorting to a blame game to save face. They say the army was not allowing them use of a certain stretch of land that was part of Namkum cantonment area, thereby delaying the project.
“The army did handover 0.72 acre in August 2010. But they did not permit us to fell trees which was needed for the project even though we got a nod from the divisional forest officer,” said Rajesh Gupta, executive engineer of Ranchi NH division.
Army officials have now apparently asked the highway authority to seek permission of defence estate officer in Danapur in Patna. “Despite writing about 10 letters to Patna, we are yet to get a response,” he added.
Gupta claimed 60 per cent work on the Rs 45cr project was over and once they get permission to cut trees on the army land, the project could be wrapped up.
Work on the overbridge, being executed by Modi Projects Limited, began in October 2008 with an initial deadline of two years. Later, the deadline was extended to March 31, 2011 by the high court.
The proposed railway over-bridge is about 1.7km long, initially estimated to cost Rs 33.60 crore. That escalated to Rs 45 crore due to delays. The width of the two-lane bridge, which will be a part of state lifeline of NH-33, is 12 metre.
Traffic snarls at Namkum railway gate on NH-33, about 5km away from the state capital, is a regular affair as most Ranchi-bound trains pass through. In the morning and evening rush hours, there is a train passing every half hour.
NH wing chief engineer Murari Bhagat said the contractor did not want to work piecemeal and unless they were able to get possession of the army land, work was destined to suffer.
Sinha, who is away in Delhi for a Planning Commission meeting, was unavailable for a comment.
A fact finding report prepared by former chief secretary P.P. Sharma, who was appointed amicus curiae in February 2010, had pointed out that it was a matter of great concern that in spite of various promises/assurances/commitments made to the high court by various authorities no progress was made with reasons being attributed to bureaucratic delays, casual and lackadaisical attitude of government officials, et al.