Work on 532 mts span bridge over Ujh river near Jathana abandoned

Brig over river Ujh abandoned by agency JKPCC near Barnoti in Kathua. -Excelsior/Pardeep
Brig over river Ujh abandoned by agency JKPCC near Barnoti in Kathua. -Excelsior/Pardeep

nContractor reluctant to resume work as agency fails to clear Rs 3 cr
JKPCC jumps 4 deadlines, fails to
complete bridge even after 8 yrs
Gopal Sharma
KATHUA, Nov 27: The work on 532 mts span double lane concrete bridge over river Ujh, near Jathana and Jakhol villages of district Kathua, has been abandoned for the last more than three years as the agency- JKPCC has failed to clear its Rs 3 crore liability to the contractor.
This important bridge in Kandi belt of district Kathua, falling under Kathua North Assembly constituency could not be completed even after eight years. The left over super-structure, with just long and narrow beams over the piers, being used to cross the river by hundreds of villagers and schools- going students/children on daily basis, is posing great threat to their lives. Since there is no approach road on both sides of the bridge, the villagers have raised wooden stair-case on both sides of the bridge- structure to mount over the bank-side piers to move over the narrow concrete beams of the abandoned bridge.
Despite several representations to the Deputy Commission Kathua, Divisional Commissioner Jammu, JKPCC Managing Director and PWD authorities besides senior BJP leaders at Jammu by the local party leaders and Sarpanches during last three years, the work on this bridge could not be resumed.

A villager climbing on the Ujh bridge through wooden ladder/staircase near Jathana village n Kathua.-Excelsior/Pardeep
A villager climbing on the Ujh bridge through wooden ladder/staircase near Jathana village n Kathua.

Official sources said that this important bridge with the estimated cost of Rs 45.54 crores was sanctioned by the Government during March 2015 under Central Roads Fund (CRF). At that time Kote Punnu bridge under CRF on old Samba-Kathua Road was also sanctioned. While the bridge at Kote Punnu was completed and made functional about four years ago, this bridge near Jathana village in Barnoti block jumped at least 3-4 deadlines and is incomplete even after eight years of its sanction.
Sources further revealed that work on this bridge commenced during 2017 and three years time was given to the agency, M/s V K Gupta & Associates from Chandigarh for completion. Though project cost of the bridge was Rs 45.54 crores, the work was tendered at Rs 36.80 crores with 1875 mts approach roads, for 500 mts span bridge, sources added.
Unfortunately, from very beginning, this bridge witnessed some unusual hurdles. Initially, 445 mts span bridge with 2550 mts approach roads was proposed but the site selected for raising this bridge was changed. The PW(R&B) Department entrusted the work to JKPCC in March 2015. The proposed bridge site was shifted downstream as recommended by High Powered Committee of PW(R&B) Department in December 2015.
The shifting of bridge site to new location resulted in the increase of span length from 445 mts to 500 mts. The bids were invited by the agency on design and built basis for 500 mts span of bridge and reduced approach lengths of 1875 mts at a cost of Rs 36.80 crores. The contractor started work in February 2017 and within one and half years about 65-70% work was completed, leaving aside approach roads.
Interestingly, the agency JKPCC again increased the length of the bridge by 32 meters, to outflank the river banks to avoid direct hit of flooded river water of Ujh for the safety of the bridge. But after this development, a dispute emerged between the agency and the contractor and the latter abandoned the work, stating that it was not possible for him to execute work with the project cost of Rs 29.61 cr for 500 mt span bridge.
Brijinder Singh Indu, BDC Chairperson Block Barnoti when contacted said that this bridge has been abandoned for the last more than three years after some dispute between agency and contractor. He said sub structure of the bridge has already been completed and superstructure work was in the process of launching beams but in between the contractor left the work and withdrawn its machinery from the site. With this, a large number of people of the area including students, office going employees and even patients are facing lot of hardships. They are risking their lives while walking over the narrow beams of the bridge. Two casualties have taken place so far over the bridge during last three years.
He disclosed that during floods, the people of Jathana and over a dozen hamlets and three Panchayats on that side of the river face problems. The students from these arras come to study in Govt Higher Secondary School at Forlain. There is massive risk to their lives while crossing during flood. From bank side pillars, people climb with the help of wooden stairs/ ladder. Indu said that over 10,000 people from several villages like Jathana, Khabbal, Kulad, Barari, Jambali, Tadwal, Kangli, Samundra, Jangara, Mayali etc have been badly affected. He said this bridge should have been completed before March 2020. Unfortunately, work could not be resumed on it, due to the reason best known to the people at the helm of affairs, he added.
Managing Director of JKPCC, R K Shavan when contacted said that due to changing of site, the work on this bridge was delayed. “We have sent revised cost of the bridge to the R&B authorities and the Chief Engineer R&B Jammu has forwarded to the Principal Secretary R&B for clearance. The revised cost is now Rs 31.20 crores instead of Rs 29.61 crores for 532 mts span bridge. The proposal was sent in May 2023. But the contractor was reluctant to resume work, “he added.
Responding to another question, the JKPCC MD said that JKUT administration in its decision taken in the Administrative Council has decided to merge JKPCC in PW (R&B). Now, the R&B has decided to take work of this bridge in its hands and initiate further. Either they will terminate the contractor and retender the work or after clearance of dues, will make the same contractor to resume and complete remaining work, he added.