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Centre threatens to recover released funds

By KALYAN BAROOAH

NEW DELHI, June 29 � In a telling comment on State Government�s poor quality control mechanism, Rural Development Ministry has warned of slow sanction of funds, if urgent measures are not taken to improve quality of construction of roads in Assam under the Prime Minister�s Grameen Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), threatening to recover the released Central funds for poor construction from the State Government.

In what has come as a confirmation of what is already known and perhaps Assam�s worst kept secret about contractor-bureaucracy-politician nexus, Union Rural Development Ministry has severely criticised the State for turning a blind eye to the quality of construction of rural roads.

Recently, Union Rural Development Minister, Jairam Ramesh had written a letter to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, a copy of which is in possession of this newspaper, complaining about the quality of construction of rural roads.

The real shocker for the State Government could be the decision to recover the funds from Assam Government. �Needless to say, as concluded by the Empowered Committee in a meeting on February 12, the cost incurred on the roads, which are declared unsatisfactory, in construction would have to be recovered from the State Government,� Ramesh said.

Since quality is at the heart of the PMGSY there can be no compromise on this. �I would request you to direct the department concerned to take all necessary steps to strengthen the quality control mechanism in the State. I want the PMGSY sanctions to Assam to accelerate but if quality concerns are not addressed meaningfully soon, I am afraid we will have no option but to go slow,� cautioned Ramesh.

While announcing clearance of project proposals amounting to Rs 570 crore for 121 roads and 257 long-span bridges covering 262.5 km length for Assam under PMGSY, Jairam Ramesh said that there are very serious concerns on quality of roads being now constructed under PMGSY in Assam.

�I have myself seen such poor quality work in different districts. Over the years, quality has deteriorated,� Ramesh observed.

But there was more to come. �I could very well have held on to the clearance letter till such a time that credible action was taken by the State Government to address these serious concerns of quality. This would have been a perfectly legitimate course of action. However, keeping in view the special challenge that Assam faces and the special circumstances that prevail there, I decided that the clearance letter could go but at the same time I would bring to your attention our concerns on quality,� the Minister said.

Though what action the Chief Minister has taken to address the Centre�s concern is not known, subsequent reports available with the Centre suggest that precious little has been done.

Ramesh has pointed out to Gogoi that recent unsatisfactory report by National Quality Monitors (NQMs) and State Quality Monitors (SQMs) indicates that there is urgent need to strengthen the quality of the assets being constructed.

According to the report, percentage of unsatisfactory work has marked an increase to 37 per cent (April 2012-February 2013) compared to the period (April 2011-March 2012), when it was recorded at 28 per cent.

As regards the coverage by the quality monitoring, the guidelines require that each road is inspected at three stages � earthwork compaction, WBM and completion. However, from the actual inspection it is clear that the percentage of unsatisfactory work is actually much higher.

The NQM report is indeed alarming. At least 1,879 roads were inspected and 1,379 roads had to be inspected one-time, 371 two times and 133 roads three times.

The issue of poor quality had been emphasized in many meetings with the State Government, Jairam Ramesh reminded Gogoi.

The State Government would be doing itself and the poor people of Assam a great disservice, if they constructed roads of poor quality and then also did not spend money on maintaining them, because the net result would be bad roads or no roads at all after a short period of time and the opportunity to use the road infrastructure to deliver services for poverty reduction would have closed prematurely, the Rural Development Minister pointed out.

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Centre threatens to recover released funds

NEW DELHI, June 29 � In a telling comment on State Government�s poor quality control mechanism, Rural Development Ministry has warned of slow sanction of funds, if urgent measures are not taken to improve quality of construction of roads in Assam under the Prime Minister�s Grameen Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), threatening to recover the released Central funds for poor construction from the State Government.

In what has come as a confirmation of what is already known and perhaps Assam�s worst kept secret about contractor-bureaucracy-politician nexus, Union Rural Development Ministry has severely criticised the State for turning a blind eye to the quality of construction of rural roads.

Recently, Union Rural Development Minister, Jairam Ramesh had written a letter to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, a copy of which is in possession of this newspaper, complaining about the quality of construction of rural roads.

The real shocker for the State Government could be the decision to recover the funds from Assam Government. �Needless to say, as concluded by the Empowered Committee in a meeting on February 12, the cost incurred on the roads, which are declared unsatisfactory, in construction would have to be recovered from the State Government,� Ramesh said.

Since quality is at the heart of the PMGSY there can be no compromise on this. �I would request you to direct the department concerned to take all necessary steps to strengthen the quality control mechanism in the State. I want the PMGSY sanctions to Assam to accelerate but if quality concerns are not addressed meaningfully soon, I am afraid we will have no option but to go slow,� cautioned Ramesh.

While announcing clearance of project proposals amounting to Rs 570 crore for 121 roads and 257 long-span bridges covering 262.5 km length for Assam under PMGSY, Jairam Ramesh said that there are very serious concerns on quality of roads being now constructed under PMGSY in Assam.

�I have myself seen such poor quality work in different districts. Over the years, quality has deteriorated,� Ramesh observed.

But there was more to come. �I could very well have held on to the clearance letter till such a time that credible action was taken by the State Government to address these serious concerns of quality. This would have been a perfectly legitimate course of action. However, keeping in view the special challenge that Assam faces and the special circumstances that prevail there, I decided that the clearance letter could go but at the same time I would bring to your attention our concerns on quality,� the Minister said.

Though what action the Chief Minister has taken to address the Centre�s concern is not known, subsequent reports available with the Centre suggest that precious little has been done.

Ramesh has pointed out to Gogoi that recent unsatisfactory report by National Quality Monitors (NQMs) and State Quality Monitors (SQMs) indicates that there is urgent need to strengthen the quality of the assets being constructed.

According to the report, percentage of unsatisfactory work has marked an increase to 37 per cent (April 2012-February 2013) compared to the period (April 2011-March 2012), when it was recorded at 28 per cent.

As regards the coverage by the quality monitoring, the guidelines require that each road is inspected at three stages � earthwork compaction, WBM and completion. However, from the actual inspection it is clear that the percentage of unsatisfactory work is actually much higher.

The NQM report is indeed alarming. At least 1,879 roads were inspected and 1,379 roads had to be inspected one-time, 371 two times and 133 roads three times.

The issue of poor quality had been emphasized in many meetings with the State Government, Jairam Ramesh reminded Gogoi.

The State Government would be doing itself and the poor people of Assam a great disservice, if they constructed roads of poor quality and then also did not spend money on maintaining them, because the net result would be bad roads or no roads at all after a short period of time and the opportunity to use the road infrastructure to deliver services for poverty reduction would have closed prematurely, the Rural Development Minister pointed out.

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