Jammu on verge of losing major tourism sector project under PMDP

‘Political interference’ leads to delay of over three years

Srinagar-based company shortlisted without ACB clearance

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, May 15: Unbelievable it may sound but it is a fact that Jammu is on the verge of losing major tourism sector project sanctioned under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) due to inordinate delay in its allotment owing to ‘political interference’ aimed at adjusting favourite contractor and other issues.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that under Prime Minister’s Development Package of 2015 several tourism sector projects were sanctioned for the State and one among them pertains to establishment of musical water fountain with ambient lights and sounds at Bagh-e-Bahu.
Under this project, a laser system was also to be built with water-screens and fountains, a glass viewing gallery, audio acoustic and solar illumination in order to make Bagh-e-Bahu more attractive spot for the tourists visiting the State.
The tenders were floated for the project at least five times but the process could not reach the logical conclusion for one or the other reason. At one point of time everything was moving in right direction but due to interference from the then Cabinet Minister holding the charge of the Tourism Department the tendering process had to be stopped abruptly, sources informed.
“Due to this the project of much importance from tourism promotion point of view could not be allotted and this was viewed seriously by the Union Government, which even conveyed to the State Government that dilly-dallying approach in allotment would lead to dropping of this project from PMDP”, they further said.
Thereafter, fresh tender (for 6th time) was floated in which four companies participated but before the work could be allotted the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) received complaints from some quarters levelling serious allegations and challenging the process of inviting bids for the 6th time.
Acting on the complaints, the Anti-Corruption Bureau early this year conducted Joint Surprise Check and impounded the documents relating to the project for detailed examination. “However, despite being aware of the fact that Anti-Corruption Bureau is conducting enquiry into the allegations the State Level Contract Committee shortlisted a Srinagar-based company for award of the project”, sources said, adding “this has raised eyebrows in certain official circles on the ground that the Committee should have waited for the completion of enquiry by the Anti-Corruption Bureau”.
When contacted, Senior Superintendent of Police, Anti-Corruption Bureau Jammu, Sandeep Wazir said, “we have not closed the matter till date as Engineering Wing of the Anti-Corruption Bureau is still examining the documents which were impounded during the Joint Surprise Check”. He, however, failed to specify the time-frame required to complete the ongoing exercise.
An officer closely associated with the tendering process, while wishing anonymity, admitted that without clearance from the Anti-Corruption Bureau work cannot be formally allotted to Srinagar-based company, which was shortlisted by the State Level Contract Committee. He failed to specify the reasons behind delay of over three years in allotment of project aimed at attracting tourists to Jammu.
“As uncertainty is still prevailing over taking tendering process to the logical conclusion the threat of losing this project is looming large as Union Government has already warned twice of dropping the project from PMDP on the ground that State is not showing any serious interest in the same”, sources said.
This was also admitted by one of the officers deeply involved in the exercise. “Union Government has a number of times conveyed in the official meetings that dilly-dallying approach in PMDP projects would not be tolerated at any cost”, he added.
Sources further said, “the Union Government has come to the conclusion that State Government doesn’t want this project at all otherwise there was no justification in delaying its allotment for over three years”, adding “had there been no political interference this Rs 10.82 crore worth project would have been allotted till date and work started on ground”.
While fate of the project was hanging in balance since 2015, the Jammu-based politicians were busy in issuing one after another statement mentioning that work was all set to begin. “It is pity that instead of playing role in getting the project allotted after fair and transparent tendering process they continued to befool the people by issuing such statements”, sources said.