GUWAHATI, Nov 10 � PWD Minister Ajanta Neog today told the Assembly that the department was taking serious note of the alleged anomalies in road construction and that contractors or PWD officials found guilty of any lapse or negligence would face stern action.
The minister was replying to a debate on the cut motion relating to the demand for grant of Rs 16868.81 lakh of her department.
Neog said that construction of roads apart, periodical maintenance and repair of existing roads entailed a big expenditure and that�s why it was seeking a bigger allocation on repair.
Neog said that around 80 per cent of the State�s 29,000 km of road network has been blacktopped and of the 5,000-odd wooden bridges 1,500 had been replaced by concrete and the same work was on in case of another 1,800.
Admitting that progress on road repair and construction had not been uniform in all the districts, the minister said that she would do the needful to expedite the road repair process in the affected areas.
Earlier, the minister was subjected to a barrage of criticism by the Opposition members who decried the poor quality of the roads constructed by the PWD and questioned the department�s sincerity and honesty in implementing road projects.
Initiating the debate on the cut motion on the Department�s demand for a supplementary grant of an amount of Rs 16868.81 lakh for roads and bridges, Nurul Hussain (AGP) deplored the quality of the Prime Minister�s Gramya Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) roads. These roads do not last even for three months. There should be accountability for the poor quality of work. The roads are repaired only on papers. The guidelines for construction and repair of these roads are not adhered to, he alleged.
Ataur Rahman Majar Bhuyan (AIUDF) alleged that both the PWD and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) have been trying to shrug off the responsibility of the NH-53 which is the lifeline of not only the Barak Valley people, but also the people of the neighbouring Mizoram and Tripura.
This attitude of the PWD and the NHAI has resulted in the erosion of a portion of the NH-53 by the Barak river, he said.
Urging the PWD to seek more fund for roads, Drupad Borgohain (CPI) said that the deplorable condition of highways and other roads depicted the department in poor light. He also called for upgrading the 212-km Dhodar Ali in upper Assam to a national highway (NH) considering its importance as an alterative route.
Parimal Suklabaidya (BJP) said that the pathetic road conditions in the Barak Valley for years had made the legislators a laughing stock for no fault of theirs. �People ridicule us irrespective of party affiliations and portray us as animals. A Silchar-Guwahati journey that should take ten hours extends to 20 hours now.
Calling for abolishing the PWD as it was serving no purpose, Suklabaidya demanded an inquiry into where the huge funds meant for road construction and repair were going. �Let there be an inquiry as to where the funds are going, and also into the contractor-minister nexus,� he added.
Brindaban Goswami (AGP) said that political apathy was a bigger bane than lack of funds as no activity was seen even when there were adequate funds. He also blamed dishonest contractors for poor quality of roads. Anup Phukan (AGP) also blamed the contractor-politician nexus for the deplorable situation, saying that even departmental engineers were afraid of contractors with political patronage.
Leader of the Opposition Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said that the tendering process for road construction served little purpose with ministerial patronage overriding the due official procedures.
JP Das (AGP) termed poor quality of roads as a big concern and said that rural roads under the PMGSY left a lot to be desired as far as quality was concerned. Keshab Mahanta (AGP) demanded a separate road repair policy.
AR Majarbhuyan (AIUDF) and Mission Ranjan Das (BJP) drew the minister�s attention to the pathetic status of the roads, including national highways, in the Barak Valley and sought her intervention.