No time-frame yet fixed for start of work on 4-lanning of Jammu-Akhnoor road

PHE, PDD, other deptts dilly-dallying on shifting of utilities

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Nov 3: Contrary to the oft repeated statements of the Ministers and bureaucrats of Jammu and Kashmir claiming early start of work, no time-frame has yet been fixed by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), a fully owned company of Government of India, for start of work on 4-lanning of Jammu-Akhnoor Section of National Highway-144A as neither the land has been transferred to it nor the process of shifting of utilities by the State Government departments has begun.
Moreover, the cost of the project has not been firmed up so far mainly because the State Government departments have been soft-paddling on submission of estimates for shifting of their respective utilities, which are required to be incorporated in the Detailed Project Report (DPR).
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that several Ministers and bureaucrats are issuing one after another statement mentioning that routine traffic jamming on Jammu-Akhnoor road would soon be thing of the past as the work on 4-lanning of this vital road is all set to begin. But these statements are actually aimed at befooling the common masses as several vital steps prelude to start of work on ground have yet not been taken by the concerned agencies of Jammu and Kashmir despite the lapse of considerable period of time.
For start of work on any project, the foremost requirement is availability of suitable land but the area coming under the alignment of 4-lanning of Jammu-Akhnoor road has not been handed over to NHIDCL, a fully owned company of Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways which has been set-up to construct National Highways and strategic roads and assigned several highway projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
About 85% of the land coming in the alignment of 4-lanning of Jammu-Akhnoor road belongs to Department of Irrigation and rest of the land either belongs to private persons or Forest Department. Generally acquisition of land from private persons takes time but in this particular case the Government departments are soft-paddling on transfer of land for the project.
“In respect of major chunk of land falling under the alignment even formalities for transfer have not been completed”, sources said while disclosing that even clearance of Forest Advisory Committee for transfer of Forest Department land for widening of the highway has not been obtained till date.
Disclosing that a number of departments like Public Health Engineering, Power Development, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Irrigation and Flood Control are required to shift their utilities so as to pave the way for start of work, sources said, “what to talk of shifting the utilities even estimates for the same have not been submitted despite the fact that this is also imperative so as to firm up the project cost”, adding “in the absence of estimates even the Detailed Project Report could not be finalized and exact cost of the project worked out”.
It is pertinent to mention here that NHIDCL website explicitly states that the draft DPR was submitted on September 15, 2017 and the same has yet not been finalized.
“In the absence of transfer of land the NHIDCL is finding it difficult to float tenders for various components of 4-lanning work”, sources said while disclosing that there are specific instructions from the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to the NHIDCL that unless 85% of land for any project is transferred the tenders shall not be floated.
When contacted, General Manager of NHIDCL Vijay Kumar said, “the Union Ministry doesn’t permit us to go ahead with any work unless at least 85% of the required land is formally transferred by the concerned agencies as such we cannot specify any time-frame for start of work on 4-lanning of Jammu-Akhnoor road”.
Stating that tenders would be floated only after transfer of land, he said, “we had made this clear even in the meeting convened by the Divisional Commissioner Jammu few days back and now it is up to the State departments how much swiftness they show in transferring the land”, adding “even shifting of utilities is imperative for start of work at the required pace”.
When contacted, Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control P N Bali said, “the Collector has given rough estimates mentioning requirement of transfer of 1500 kanals of land to NHIDCL. I have given directions for firming up the estimates so that same could be forwarded to the executing agency”.
In response to a question, the Chief Engineer claimed that the utilities of the Irrigation Department which are coming in the alignment of the 4-lanning work will have to be constructed by the project executing agency.