Roads unlikely to get macadamized in Kashmir soon

Hot Mix Plant Owners Association protesting at Press Colony in Srinagar. -Excelsior/Shakeel
Hot Mix Plant Owners Association protesting at Press Colony in Srinagar. -Excelsior/Shakeel

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, May 17: Contrary to assurances made by the Roads and Boards Buildings, roads in Kashmir are unlikely to be macadamized anytime soon as the department is offering tenders based on prior rates that hot-mix plant owners consider unreasonable and inappropriate.
The owners of hot-mix plants in Jammu and Kashmir told Excelsior that the department was issuing tenders without taking into account the raw material cost increases over the last year. “If rates have been raised and everyone is aware of it, why is not the department taking this into consideration and releasing tenders accordingly?” Bashir Ahmad, president of Jammu and Kashmir’s hot-mix plant owners, told Excelsior. He added that the rates should be set based on current market rates.
He said that they were willing to work and deliver services to the government, but that the tender rates were unworkable. “The raw material rates have risen dramatically. For example, the price of a metric tonne of Bitmun has risen from Rs 35,000 to Rs 70,000, as have the prices of other commodities. We will become bankrupt if we execute projects at current rates,” he said.
After delaying the macadamization, the department has recently re-invited tenders, but hot-mix owners claim that the process will be stalled again because the department has once again omitted the cost escalation factor in tendering. “The revised rates have been increased by merely 10% while a 100% escalation has occurred, which means that the tendering process will be stalled again and there will be no macadamization,” the owners said.
They have requested the government to appoint an independent engineering committee, comprised of all stakeholders from both regions, to come up with a reasonable solution to the problem. “All of the parameters will be discussed by the committee, and a viable solution will be proposed,” they said.
The owners allege the department is misleading the government by making false statements. “They say they will start macadamizing roads in two weeks, but we are not sure how they will do it when the people who will be doing the work are not ready to work at the current rates,” the owners said.
Pertinently, Rafiq Ahmad, the Chief Engineer R&B Department, had indicated that macadamization will begin in the following two weeks because tenders had already been issued.
While the department and hot mix plant owners are yet to reach an agreement, commuters throughout the Valley are experiencing major traffic congestion and vehicle damage as a result of the majority of the roads being covered in potholes.