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Nagaland roads hit extortion dead end

Kohima, Feb. 10: The Centre’s mega project of constructing two-lane roads connecting Changtongya-Longleng, Merangkong-Mon, Pfutsero-Phek, and Chakabama-Zunheboto under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in the Northeast (SARDP-NE) has been plagued by extortion.

Militants from different factions have reportedly extorted several lakhs of rupees from Maytas-Gayatri Joint Venture, the company executing the project, sources in the home ministry said.

Recently, a rebel group took away the keys of all the excavators working between Satakha town and Zunheboto.

The outfit is demanding a huge amount of money to return the keys.

This is reportedly the second time that the same outfit has seized the keys of the machines.

Sources said the matter has not been officially reported yet but the Sumi Hoho, the apex organisation of the Sumi community, is likely to submit a memorandum to the Centre and state government seeking immediate intervention. The Hoho has been negotiating with the outfit for the last couple of days.

The 329km-project was sanctioned four years ago. Since 2010, the project cost has escalated from Rs 1,296 crore to Rs 2,988 crore.

The state government has been blaming militants for hampering development. Many have also demanded a CBI inquiry into the delays.

The ministry of road transport and highways has appointed Haryana-based firm RITES Ltd, as a third party consultant, to oversee and verify the stalled project.

An official of Maytas-Gayatri Joint Venture, P. Subrahmanyam, said: “RITES Ltd has been deputed by the Centre to visit the sites and verify the quantity of work executed and prepare a new detailed project report. Based on that Maytas & Gayatri will resume work.”

The project was supposed to be completed within 36 months but it has been delayed since 2010. The company had to abandon the project for almost two years because of militancy.

However, a prominent contractor here said government agencies were the main obstacle to getting work done.

“Our government agencies are worse than militants. They deduct money from various sources and we have to compromise on quality of work,” the contractor said.