Controversial Nagaland highway project to be terminated

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The central government is set to terminate the contract for a bunch of highly controversial highway projects in the country, which saw an over two-fold increase in costs even before a single kilometre was constructed. The four different stretches in Nagaland were clubbed together in 2010 and were awarded to a private player.

Sources said that the irregularities in these projects totaling 329 kilomtere have been under investigation for two-and-a-half years. They added the issue was flagged in 2012 when Nagaland public works department forwarded its proposal to revise the project estimate from Rs 1,296 crore to Rs 2,988 crore.

Nagaland PWD had prepared the project estimate and work was awarded to M/s Maytas-Gayatri (JV) in December 2010 through competitive bidding.

By mid-2012, the road transport and highways ministry had released at least Rs 300 crore for construction of these stretches. The contractor had undertaken only excavation work and this had exceeded the original estimated/ sanction quantity – over 3-4 times in some stretches, ministry official said.

Officials said such variation was abnormal and could not be sanctioned. So, the Centre stopped process of releasing the budget and the contractor stopped work.

“The only option to revive this contract is to take the matter to Cabinet. But it would be next to impossible to justify why the four stand alone projects were clubbed together without taking approval of the cabinet committee on economic affairs. So, we have no option left other than terminating the contract,” an official said.

In a major policy change, the highways ministry in 2010 had started clubbing small projects together to attract major players. Consequently, the two-laning of four roads – Longleng-Changtongya, Mon-Tamlu-Merangkong, Phek-Pfutzero and Zunheboto-Chakabama – were awarded as one package.

The contractor had to complete the project in 36 months. Not a single kilometre has been built so far.(ToI/Agencies)