Started over a year back, work on Rs 9 cr vital road projects abandoned in Kathua

Kathua Khad bridge on which work has been abandoned by R&B Department. —Excelsior/Madan
Kathua Khad bridge on which work has been abandoned by R&B Department. —Excelsior/Madan

Avtar Bhat

KATHUA, Sept 8: Though started over a year back, the work has been abandoned on two vital projects of an approach road and a bridge in Kathua district by the State Roads and Buildings Department (R&B) putting the people in these localities to a lot of trouble and problems.
According to sources, “the work on two vital projects including over Rs two crore bridge on Kathua Khad and near Rs seven crore approach road joining National Highway with village Jangrot in Kathua has been abandoned due to official apathy putting the people to many hardships.”
Sources said, “the delay in construction of two vital projects in the district has happened despite the liberal funding by Central Government to the State for its development. While the bridge and approach road along Kathua Khad is being constructed under State plan, the approach road from NH to village Jangrot in Kathua is being constructed under PMGSY for which Jammu region got the lion’s share for two consecutive years.”
Sources said that tenders for the construction of bridge over Kathua Khad were earlier issued in March 2017 and later the tender was cancelled by then Chief Engineer, R&B without assigning any reasons. The second tender was issued in July 2017 and one contractor qualified by giving rate below 50 percent of sanctioned schedule. This tender was also cancelled by the Department as the contractor failed to start the work on the bridge knowing fully that the rate was totally unreasonable and he will be put to heavy loss in case the construction of the same is taken up in hand by him.
Yielding to pressure of the people and public representative from Kathua, the Department issued new tenders in March this year and the contractor who received the tender as lowest bidder started the work on the project after completion of all formalities. The construction was in full swing and 60 percent work on the bridge, besides construction of all piers was completed by the contractor when he came to know that there are no funds available with the Department.
The contractor was not released any payment by the Department and for completion of 60 percent work he has spent over Rs one crore from his pocket. When the contractor made a claim for payment, he was refused the same by the Department saying that there are no funds available with it for the work forcing him to abandon the work in half way.
The Executive Engineer, R&B Kathua, Uttar Kumar when contacted said that the work falls under State plan and funds under this plan are meant for whole State which are earmarked for the works on priority basis. He said due to shortage of funds the work could not be completed and the liability remained there.
Sources said the people of Ward No 3, 4, 13 and 14 and vendors of Fruit and Vegetable Mandi Barmora are mostly affected due to abandoning of work on the bridge. The people of these wards and Fruit and Vegetable Mandi representatives took up the issue with the concerned authorities and the public representative, Rajiv Jasrotia . Following the constant pressure of people and public representative the Department issued the tenders in March this year. The aggrieved people of the area said that they were hopeful with the construction of bridge and approach road along it their long pending demand has been met but all their hopes dashes to ground after the work was abandoned on the project over two months back.
Sources said that likewise the work has been abandoned on another vital project i. e construction of approach road from National Highway to village Janglot in Kathua tehsil which was started last year.
Sources said that people of the village and former MLA Kathua, Charanjit Singh made an objection to the use of sub standard material on the road by the contractor. He also objected the raising of level of the culvert to be constructed on the road higher than that of the road surface and took up the issue with the Department demanding that the contractor be restrained from raising the level of the culvert above the road. In his complaint to the Department, Singh also alleged that the substandard material was being used in its construction.
The Department ordered the inquiry through the Chief Engineer, PMGSY, S P Manhas who in his report submitted to the Department said that work was going on as per specification, sources said. Not satisfied with the inquiry made by Manhas the people gave a representation to the then Development Commissioner Works, Sheikh Hamid and he himself visited the spot and conducted the probe. He issued instructions to Departmental authorities not to go ahead with the construction work before getting the technical sanction of the project, approval of its design and proper marking of boundaries of the road, sources added.
Surprisingly in contravention of the instructions issued by DC Works, Department made payment of Rs 40 lakh. This prompted the Vigilance Organization to file the FIR on the basis of a complaint filled by the people and initiated the enquiry. Later the contractor abandoned the work on the road and Department has decided to issue fresh tenders for it.
Taking serious exception to abandoning of work on two vital projects in his constituency, MLA Kathua Rajiv Jasrotia took the Department to task for sabotaging the projects in his constituency. He said that after hard efforts he succeeded in getting work approved for two road projects in the area and it is unfortunate that the same is being sabotaged by some vested elements.
He said the work on Janglot road was not started and people filed complaints in vigilance which is totally unfortunate.