JKPCC abandons work on Mandi bypass bridge; fails to meet deadline

Work abandoned by JKPCC on Mandi bypass bridge since long in district Poonch. -Excelsior/Ramesh Bali
Work abandoned by JKPCC on Mandi bypass bridge since long in district Poonch. -Excelsior/Ramesh Bali

Yatra from Aug 5, contractors show no interest

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, July 25: A very important bridge in view of smooth pilgrimage to Shri Budha Amarnath ji Shrine and uninterrupted movement of Army vehicles to the forward locations in Sawjian sector along the Line of Control (LoC) of Poonch district, failed to meet the deadline of May 2019 as the Jammu Kashmir Construction Corporation (JKPCC), a State Government owned agency, has abandoned the work on this Mandi bypass bridge for the last about seven months.
Sanctioned by the previous BJP-PDD Government in 2016-17 with the cost of Rs 11.25 crore, work on this strategically important, double- lane pre-stressed concrete bridge was started in December 2017 by the JKPCC. A total 18 months time was given to the agency by the then R&B Department under PDP Minister Naeem Akhtar. The agency with its own machinery and manpower commenced the work and nearly completed left and right abetments at the banks by raising nearly 60 % central pillar. But since almost January this year, the work has been stalled on the bridge by the agency for the reason best know to the people at the helm of affairs.
Official sources told the Excelsior that ‘ill-equipped JKPCC’, which was initially raised by the State Government during seventies for expediting construction works, has nearly turned out to be a contracting agency. Its task has virtually reduced to taking contracts from R&B and other agencies, and then sub-letting the same to the private contractors by taking its share of nearly 20 to 25% as ‘middle-men’. The main reason behind is, because they don’t have the sufficient and advance machinery to execute works and the Government also never bothered to strengthen this agency. It has virtually been left to become burden on the public exchequer, sources added.
For this bridge, the then JKPCC Board took decision to undertake work of this bridge itself. Now, when hardly 40% of the work of sub-structure has been executed, the agency raised hands and then started looking for the private contractors to complete the remaining work. For the last about 7-8 months, they have been inviting tenders but the contractors are reluctant to undertake the remaining work of this bridge due to some `tough conditions’ of the contract.
Sources further revealed that there is nearly total 800 meters approach road to this 80 mt long double span bridge on both sides. The agency has already done nearly 50% of the work on it and now it wants to complete this task by itself. Therefore, the contractors are not showing any interest as the chaos has been created by the JKPCC by letting it as ‘piece meal’ works. The agency invited tenders three times, but no one has shown any interest. The agency has now been in a fix, how to complete the work on this important bridge.
A local resident from Mandi, M I Bhat said actually, this bypass road and bridge at Mandi was sanctioned by the previous Government on the popular public demand due to massive traffic jams in main Mandi market. He said nearly 1.5 kms road passing through Mandi town market is very narrow. Two heavy or medium vehicles can’t cross in this market, he added.
“Massive traffic jams are the order of the day and Army vehicles movement to the LoC and other vehicles moving towards Loran and Sawjian remained affected for hours. It has also increased the frequency of accidents in the town. People and traders often park their bikes and light vehicles in the market and this affects the free movement of vehicles. Worst is the condition near Mandi Hospital in the main market, and even sometimes ambulance gets trapped in long traffic jams. The local legislators and Defence authorities of the area had strongly projected this demand of bypass road and bridge,” he said.
Bhat said during month long Shri Budha Amarnath Ji yatra, the Yatra convoy remains caught in traffic jams for 2-3 hours. From August 5, this Yatra is again commencing but fate of this bridge still hangs in balance. He said long traffic jams invite unnecessary risk to the life of pilgrims and increase the anxiety of the security forces deployed for the security and safety of the passengers. So, early completion of this abandoned bridge is very vital in all respects, he added.
Dy General Manager , JKPCC, Incharge Rajouri-Poonch districts, Arshed Mam when contacted revealed that work on this Rs 11.25 cr bridge project under CRF, was started in December 2017. He said Rs 2.42 crore have been received so far for the project while work value performed so far is to the tune of Rs 3.35 crore. He claimed that two years time was given for the completion of the project but even after inviting tenders three times, no contractor has come forward to take up super-structure work in hand. He said nearly Rs 8.83 crore more funds are required for the completion of this project.
“We are inviting national tenders again within 2-3 days, if any agency/ contactor comes forward, the work will be completed within 7-8 months. For initial start of work also, JKPCC had invited tenders for this pre-stressed concrete double lane bridge. But due to no response of contractors thrice, the then R&B Minister, Naeem Akhtar directed the agency to start work upto sub-structure. Against tender dated 24-9-2018, only one contractor responded but that was cancelled as at least there must be two competitors as per norms. We are trying to rope in 2-3 contactors this time. We hope some good response against this fourth tender,” Mam maintained.