DIBRUGARH, June 18 � Union DoNER Minister BK Handique was deliberately misled into believing that the Rs 3,200-crore Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge would be commissioned by December 2015.
The railway officials, who gave a presentation at New Delhi on Friday, had said that the December 2015 deadline would be achievable, but with riders. The railway presentation was regarding progress of major railway projects in the Northeast, to coincide with the 60th plenary session of the North Eastern Council. Incidentally, all ongoing railway projects in the region are running years behind schedule, leading to public frustration and the inevitable cost escalations.
What the railway personnel said was that the bridge would be completed by December 2015, provided the super structure work was awarded by July this year.
The main stumbling block in the timely completion of the bridge is the allotment of the super structure work, estimated to cost about Rs 1,000 crore. The tender for this work was floated more than two years ago, and a consortium was about to be given the job. However, problems arose with the Ministry of External Affairs raising objections to the Chinese company in the consortium.
The External Affairs Ministry and the Intelligence Bureau were of the opinion that deployment of Chinese engineers at the Bogibeel project is undesirable. They thought that these Chinese engineers could double up as spies.
Given these fears, the matter went into cold storage, until earlier this year. The consortium has since been remodelled, this time without Chinese participation. However, the Railway Board is yet to clear the file.
While the plan and design of the super structure has been contemplated and finalised more than a year ago, all that is now required is to call the successful bidder and be asked to go ahead with the fabrication and installation works. According to the engineering road map, the super structure would require four years to be completely installed.
It is speculated that the Mumbai headquartered HCC may get the work order for the super structure. In May this year, NF Railway general manager (construction), Vijaya Kanth had informed this newspaper that the work would be awarded within the same month. But here we are well into the second half of June 2011, and yet, neither the Railway Ministry nor the Railway Board is uttering a word on this vital matter.
Even as there is word of Chinese military build-up along the Arunachal border, the Indian defence services would be better off with the Bogibeel bridge ready for traffic. Apart from enabling better military mobility, the Bogibeel bridge is all set to be a boon for surface communication in Upper Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. As BK Handique has rightly noted, the Bogibeel bridge is a critical infrastructure piece for the country. But the mandarins at the Railway Ministry and the Railway Board are taking their own time to realize this.