Executing agency violates agreement, fails to provide viable service road to public

'Clouds of dust' on Jammu-Akhnoor road due to ongoing widening work by SP Singla Constructions Pvt Ltd. -Excelsior/Rakesh
'Clouds of dust' on Jammu-Akhnoor road due to ongoing widening work by SP Singla Constructions Pvt Ltd. -Excelsior/Rakesh

Slow pace of 4-laning work irks public
Dust may lead to health hazards

Gopal Sharma

JAMMU, Apr 23: In sheer violation of the contract agreement, executing agency engaged by the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) on 4- laning of NH-144A, from Jammu to Akhnoor, has been posing great risk to the health and lives of the general public and thousands of road users.
Under the nose of Divisional and District Administration Jammu, this violation is going on for the last about one year but the officers at the helm of affairs seem to be least bothered about the public plight. They might have used this road on several occasions, especially from Shakti Nagar Puli to Muthi, Akhnoor Road or from Paloura Top, near Best Price Shopping Mall via AG Office to Shakti Nagar Puli crossing, but hardly acted despite the fact that the road on which the NHIDCL and SP Singla Constructions Pvt Ltd have started 4-laning work (on NH144A) with the cost of Rs 917 crores, have virtually failed to provide a viable service road.
This nearly 3 kilometers road stretch has been dug out at many places by machines and has turned bumpy and dusty. On other side of Ranbir Canal, the entire traffic of Poonch, Rajouri and Akhnoor side, moving to Jammu has been diverted to the narrow road from Paloura Top to AG Office and Shakti Nagar Puli up to Canal Head. The road condition has deteriorated and turned pathetic and critical. It has virtually turned into a ‘Khud’. The broken road surface, large potholes and dust in the entire area has added to the woes of the people of the localities along these road and the road users. This dust has turned big health hazard for the public, exposing them to lungs and allergy related problems.
Many bikers and other LMV road users met with accidents on this road stretch many times. While avoiding potholes on this bumpy and rough road, they take sudden turns and get collided with other vehicles. Moreover, traffic jams has become the order of the day. Neither, any State Government agency or the agencies connected with the execution of work, SP Singla Constructions Pvt Ltd or NHIDCL ever bothered to repair or do some urgent maintenance work on this road.
Ironically, the provision of providing service roads on both the sides, is the part of agreement. But this agency has failed to provide the service road to the users who pay road tax, token tax, registration fee of vehicle, driving license fee etc to the Government. Then depriving the people of their legitimate right by the Government, is certainly an offence. But the authorities at the helm of affairs have yet to awake from the deep slumber.
One Kuldip Khajuria, local resident pointed out that work of 4-laning on NH-144A is going on for the last about one year, but is it not the responsibility of the executing agency to provide a viable service road? He said people / road users pay revenue to the government in the shape of various taxes, it is the responsibility of the Government to provide better roads.
He said with flying of dust every time, the life of the people has become hell. During rain, water logging is noticed all over this road stretch because there are no drains. No maintenance work has been executed by the State agencies. When locals approached senior R&B Deptt officials, they claimed that it was the responsibility of the SP Singla Constructions Ltd or NHIDCL who have been using this road as service lane for heavy traffic. Entire heavy traffic is using this road and its condition has gradually turned from bad to worst during last 7-8 months. This road stretch has virtually been turned into an ‘orphan baby’ of the Government, to whom no any agency is owning. But the general public is the worst sufferer, Khajuria added.
Vikas Gupta, another resident from Lower Shakti Nagar, said two wheeler riders when use this road are unable to move through the dust. They are unable to be recognized by any one due to dust on their face when they move through this road. This road has turned accident prone and many accidents are taking place every day. About half a dozen deaths have taken place on this road in just last 5-6 months. If Government is silent on this vital issue at least High Court must take note of it.
He said hardly few days back, a small stretch of main road was black-topped by the agency, but it is just face saving. They are bound to provide good viable service lane to the road users till the Highway is completed.
Official sources said that 4-laning of Jammu-Akhnoor Highway work was allotted to SP Singla Constructions Pvt Ltd. The contract of first 5.5 kms stretch stood allotted about eight months ago and two years time limit has been given. The contract for the remaining road has also been secured by the same company but final sanction has been awaited due to some technical reasons. This has also caused delay at the remaining part of the road.
The work on this project is going on at snail’s pace and till now hardly 20 % work has been executed. They have to construct flyover from Shakti Nagar Pulli crossing up to next 5.5 kms. It is believed that executing agency would fail to meet the targeted time limit assigned by the Government. At many places, the work has been abandoned after some digging work.
A recently retired Chief Engineer from R&B Jammu, when contacted, said in every such contract, there is an agreement wherein it is generally mentioned that the executing agency would provide a viable and good trafficable service road where traffic could move freely. Even proper diversions are given where ever required. The executing agency SP Singla Constructions Ltd is bound to provide this facility to the road users. And if it has not been in the agreement, then the Government owned agency NHIDCL is duty bound to provide services roads on both sides to the road users, the retired Chief Engineer maintained.
Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma when contacted said that executing agency is duty bound to provide viable and good service road. He said he had directed the SP Singla Management recently to start work on service road or face action. Now, they have started work on the main road side but on the AG office side road, they are reluctant to do it as this road belongs to R&B. Now, R&B would start work on this road stretch shortly, Verma added.
Project Manager , SP Singla Constructions Pvt Ltd, S. Guleria when contacted said that the delay in the construction work is only due to delay in land clearance cases from Revenue authorities. He said the work on this nearly 5.5 kms stretch was allotted hardly during October last year. He said they have to construct in this stretch, an alleviated corridor (fly-over). The land at several places has not been handed over to them till today. On service road, he said, there is very less scope of service lane on left side moreover, some work has been started now at main road. He remained non-committal on the maintenance of road on right side of the Ranbir Canal.