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A2Z ouster casts doubt on waste plant

Ranchi Municipal Corporation’s (RMC) move to show the door to A2Z Waste Management Pvt. Ltd, a Gurgaon-based private agency that was roped in before the 34th National Games in 2011 to keep Ranchi spic and span, has turned the spotlight on another ambitious plan of the civic body.

The much-touted waste disposal and treatment plant on the state capital’s outskirts, on which around Rs 2 crore has already been spent in three years, is increasingly appearing to be yet another ‘wasteful act’. For, it was A2Z that was supposed to set up and run the plant in Jhiri. With RMC deciding to terminate the services of the private agency from January as it has failed to perform its duties well, the fate of the Rs 20 crore project seems to be hanging in the balance.

Well-placed sources in RMC said that there had not been much progress on the plant despite release of funds. A senior RMC official also admitted to lapses. “We gave around Rs 2 crore to A2Z for building the plant, but we recently came to know that they were diverting the money to pay their employees. The agency had also informed RMC that it would begin full-fledged construction at the site on September 17 this year, but eventually, it did not,” said the official, adding that they should have checked the status of the project earlier.

When contacted, RMC CEO Dipankar Panda could not given any reason as to why monitoring was slack. However, he maintained that the waste plant was on.

“We will redo the tenders to hunt for a fresh executing agency as A2Z failed to set up the plant, which was very much a part of their contract, even after three years,” said Panda. However, he could not provide any deadline.

Although the DPR had pegged the Jhiri plant at Rs 20 crore, the delay is bound to jack up costs. Even if that does not happen, a fresh tender and hiring of new consultants, who may want to rework on the original plan, will certainly shoot up expenditures.

An official claimed that A2Z had outsourced the cleaning job to a local contractor called Nandlal Mahto, who used to produce fake bills. “We came to know that he invested around Rs 25 lakh to bag the sub-contracting job. Naturally, his focus was to recover the money he chipped in,” the official said.

Vijay Prakash, vice-president (HR), A2Z, however, the entire ouster was politically motivated. He maintained that they were doing their best given the rates charges paid per tonne of waste collection. “The contract says with change in market prices and other factors, rates will be revised from time to time. But ever since we came here, all we got was false assurances. We are given Rs 550 per tonne of waste at present, while in other places the rates are as high as Rs 1,400,” said Prakash.

He denied hiring a sub-contractor or misusing Rs 2 crore allotted for the waste plant.