Count the craters and cracks on the two-year-old, Rs 74-crore Adityapur toll bridge. It just took a few showers for the bridge to bare its warts. Picture by Animesh Sengupta
Jamshedpur, Sept. 3: Jharkhand’s first infrastructure project developed in public-private-partnership mode, the Rs 74-crore Adityapur toll bridge, is only two years old but already bearing the brunt of the populism of one government, the amnesia of another and the overall economic slump.
In October 2012, then Arjun Munda-led government exempted two-wheelers from paying toll tax while using the link between Kadma in Jamshedpur and Adityapur and Gamharia. According to the deal between Adityapur Toll Bridge Company Limited (ATBCL) and the state, the state industry department was supposed to make up for losses. ATBCL’s managing director Sudhansu Kumar said the company was yet to receive a penny in these last 10 months.
He pegged the outstanding amount around Rs 1 crore.
“According to provisions of the concession agreement, the government is supposed to compensate us if it exempts tax on any kind of vehicle. But though two-wheelers were exempted, the state didn’t offset our loss,” Kumar said.
He added two-wheelers used to fetch anything between Rs 38,000 and Rs 40,000 per day by way of toll tax. “The cash-strapped company, which maintains the bridge, has to bear a loss of around Rs 12 lakh per month,” he added.
The economic downturn, resulting in a slump at Adityapur industrial area, worsened the situation.
“The number of trucks and trailers using the toll bridge dropped due to the dip in industrial production. These apart, many commercial vehicles still opt for Kharkai bridge, hurting our earnings,” he said.
Moreover, despite mounting inflation, all the toll rates are two years old, says Kumar. The company charges Rs 40 from trucks and trailers, Rs 50 from multi-axle vehicles, Rs 20 from buses and Rs 10 from cars and autos.
In 2011, the company had predicted daily earnings of over Rs 60,000, but in 2013, it is making around Rs 25,000, sources said.
The slide is evident as the bridge is losing its premium look and feel. There is simply no money to maintain it.
When the monsoon picked up steam, the damage on the bridge became more evident.
Admitting to the funds crunch, ATBCL managing director Kumar said the company did not have money to pay its electricity bills or interest on bank loans for construction.
“From the meagre daily revenue generated through toll tax from commercial and heavy vehicles, we are somehow paying salaries. It has become very tough for us to pay power bills and bank interest. Under present circumstances, we cannot think of maintenance,” Kumar told The Telegraph.
Last year, the ATBCL management had submitted a petition to state road construction department, seeking a 40 per cent hike in rates. After a year, the department recently responded, asking for clarification on five or six points. The department also sought to know why the number of vehicles using the bridge was far lower than projected.
“We submitted our reply to all queries in August. We sent copies to both industry and road construction departments. We expect this new state government to revise toll rates and clear dues,” said Kumar.