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Project race to beat poll clock

Calcutta, Feb. 27: Nabanna and other government offices across the state have been witnessing a flurry of activity, with officials scurrying to issue work orders for important projects in anticipation that the Lok Sabha elections dates could be announced anytime.

Sources said the poll dates could be declared by tomorrow afternoon. Once the dates are announced, the model code of conduct will kick in and no work order can be issued or tenders floated.

Departments like public works and public health engineering, which undertake major infrastructure projects, were the busiest today, officials said.

“Projects like roads and bridges are the priority now as they are visible…. So we wanted to issue work orders for as many projects as possible before the poll dates are announced,” a PWD official said this evening.

Panchayat department officials said all district magistrates had been instructed to “not waste time” and issue as many orders as possible.

“All district magistrates have issued a large number of work orders yesterday and today. They will possibly get time till tomorrow afternoon,” another official said.

The PWD (roads) has issued at least 30 work orders since Tuesday — all related to strengthening of state highways. The department had issued around 60 such work orders in the past seven months, officials said. “The projects have to be completed before the polls and the monsoon,” a department official said.

PWD officials said the process to select agencies to repair the state highways were being expedited.

The national highways wing of the PWD has taken up at least three projects with the Union ministry of roads, transport and highways.

“We have seven projects in hand. All formalities for the three projects have been completed. We will issue work orders once we get the nod from the ministry. The chief engineer has gone to Delhi to ensure the approval by tomorrow,” an official said.

Officials of the disaster management department said formalities for issuing tenders to build around 150 flood shelters in the two Parganas and East Midnapore with World Bank assistance had been completed. “We are waiting for the World Bank’s nod,” an official said.

Minister Arup Biswas was not far behind in announcing schemes. The youth affairs minister today said his department would give Rs 5,000 each to nearly 10,000 schools, Rs 10,000 each to 500 colleges and Rs 25,000 each to 11 universities to develop sports infrastructure.

Nine mountaineers were also given Rs 5 lakh each by Biswas for an expedition to the Everest.

Urban development department officials said they were worried because if the polls are announced, it could cast a cloud on the chief minister’s plan of inaugurate some projects on Saturday.