| Potholes on the East-West corridor at Hajia Chowk in Gopalganj. Telegraph picture |
The East-West corridor project, connecting Gandhinagar in Gujarat with Silchar in Assam, has run off the track in Bihar’s Gopalganj district with the company entrusted with the construction work leaving the site abruptly.
National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has recommended termination of the contract with the Hyderabad-based company, constructing roads as part of the project passing through the district, because of the alleged tardy progress and substandard quality of work.
The company could not construct two stretches of roads — one from Bathnakuti to Devapur covering a distance of 40km and the other from Devapur to Dumaria Ghat (32km) — in seven years even when the deadline was 2008.
The NDA government at the Centre, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had launched the ambitious East-West corridor project with financial assistance from World Bank. An agreement was signed between World Bank and the Hyderabad-based company on October 30, 2005, to build the two roads passing through Gopalganj.
In 2009, a team of World Bank delegates visited Gopalganj for inspection. On finding several alleged irregularities, the team terminated the services of the company. The company, however, managed to get the work back from NHAI in 2010 and set a target to complete it by June 2012. Despite this, sources said there was no improvement in the pace of the work. Now, NHAI officials in the district have recommended termination of the deal with the company.
The Telegraph is withholding the name of the company as its officials could not be contacted for comment.
An NHAI official told The Telegraph: “Barely 37 per cent of the project has so far been completed. We hoped that the project could be completed by March 2013. But the company has stopped work for the past one week.”
An NHAI technical officer said the work on East-West corridor was split into 10 packages. “The ninth and the tenth packages are for Gopalganj district. As part of the ninth package, the company was supposed to construct 40km of road from Bathnakuti near the state’s border with Uttar Pradesh to Devapur at the cost of Rs 365.4 crore. The tenth package is for the 32-km stretch between Devapur and Dumaria Ghat and the cost for this stretch was estimated at Rs 350 crore.”
A number of petrol pump dealers in the district are also unhappy with the construction company. “At least 13 filling stations have suffered loss amounting to crores because the company officials have left without paying the pumps for the petrol they bought,” a petrol pump owner said.