Contract cloud over ropeway opening

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By AMIT UKIL in Siliguri
  • Published 6.12.05

Siliguri, Dec. 6: Confusion prevails over which organisation will be chosen by the forest department to inspect the restored Darjeeling-Rangit ropeway and certify it fit for resuming service.

Tragedy befell the popular 2-km long ropeway on October 19, 2003 when it collapsed, killing four tourists and injuring 11 others. The accident temporarily put an end to the six-year run of the ropeway, which extends from North Point School to Rangit village.

An inquiry, headed by then Jalpaiguri division commissioner Balbir Ram, had said that one of the reasons for the accident was a change in alignment of the ropeway following a shift in the mountains. But engineers involved in ropeway construction point out that such a shift happens over a long period of time, unless an earthquake occurs.

According to PWD officials, the company that operated the ropeway has reinstated it. But before it starts functioning, the forest department has asked the PWD to carry out an inspection and issue a certificate of fitness.

?The PWD, however, acts as a nodal agency in such matters and appoints a third and more competent party to carry out the inspection,? said S.P. Roy, engineer-in-chief of the department. It had thus asked three such organisations, through a selected tender process, to quote their rates and the time they would take for the inspection.

RITES and Mecon opted out because of earlier commitments and the Kalyani Government Engineering College, which quoted Rs 4.7 lakh and a time span of 30 days, bagged the deal after a meeting at the PWD minister?s office on September 28.

?But for some reason, Mecon, with its offer of Rs 15 lakh and three months? time, is again being considered for the job,? alleged professor Sajal Majumder, who is representing the college in the transaction.

Roy corroborated Majumder?s claims, but said that the final decision lay in the hands of the forest department.

Joint secretary of the forest department Sheila Nag said the matter was still undecided. ?The final decision will be taken by the forest minister.?