Qazigund-Banihal tunnel to miss 5th deadline

A view of Qazigund-Banihal tunnel. — Excelsior/Sajad Dar
A view of Qazigund-Banihal tunnel. — Excelsior/Sajad Dar

Company gets March 2020 target
Irfan Tramboo
SRINAGAR, Nov 24: Qazigund-Banihal tunnel on the National Highway (NH-44) that has missed four deadlines in last eight years will miss another deadline in December this year due to sluggish pace of work.
Starting from Ujroo in Qazigund and ending in Banihal, the contract for the construction of a 4-lane tunnel by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was given to Navyog Engineers-a non-local construction company-in 2011. However, since then the company is missing deadlines after deadlines owing to slow pace of construction work.
With estimated costs of around Rs 1850 crore, the project has not witnessed much progress since its inception nine years ago. Though, the project has witnessed lack of funds, however, as of now, there are no such constraints which could have slowed down pace of work on the tunnel.
After the initiation of the project in 2011, the construction company missed consecutive deadlines, first in 2016, second in May 2017, third in December 2018 and is all set to miss the deadline of December 2019. The company has been given another deadline: March 2020, to complete the project.
The locals, particularly the drivers are aghast over the slow pace of work on the tunnel, which they said should have been completed by now. “But they are extremely slow in getting the things done; if the construction work on the tunnel would have been completed, it would have helped us (drivers) a lot; it would have saved us so much of time, which otherwise is a mere waste,” Hirran Singh, a non-local driver said.
Apart from drivers, the locals of the area are equally dismayed over sluggish pace of work by the construction agency on the tunnel. They demand that all the construction contracts given to the company should be cancelled immediately.
“The company is handling many construction works in J&K, given the fact that they keep missing the deadlines on this very project, all their contracts must be cancelled so that they don’t take such works for granted,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, a local in Ujroo.
Meanwhile, the NHAI has attributed the delay in the completion of the project to the circumstances in J&K, particularly in the Valley since the project was kick-started. “In 2014, there were flood, then you know about 2016 what happened and the work could not gather any pace, and then this year, after August, that too you are aware of,” said a NHAI official on the condition of anonymity.
When asked if the NHAI was going to penalize the company for missing consecutive deadlines set to complete the project, the official said that the company has missed the deadlines “under certain circumstances and we cannot penalize them as of now, but if same continued in future as well, then, we can consider that option as well,” he said.