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New forest rules hit PWD projects

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, July 5 - Nearly 100 projects of the Public Works Department and Guwahati Development Department in the city � both big and small � are in a limbo, with contractors expressing their inability to complete them on time due to forest royalty hassles and inclement weather. The projects are mostly related to road repairs.

PWD Minister Parimal Suklabaidya had yesterday called the contractors for a meeting to review the progress of work.

Sources said the unhappy minister sought to know the reasons for the poor progress of work. While seeking cooperation from the contractors, Suklabaidya also struck a warning note, saying the department would be forced to take action in case of any lapses on their part.

The contractors have, however, blamed certain new rules enforced by the Forest department which has triggered a shortage of construction materials.

Works worth around Rs 250 crore under Guwahati Development Department and another Rs 150 crore under Performance Based Maintenance Contract (PBMC) are going on in the city, but all have come to a standstill since the last two months.

�When we make a requisition request to a DFO concerned, he seeks a mining plan to extract materials. How can a small contractor prepare a mining plan? After the DFOs allow for the requisition, it takes one to two months to get the materials due to cumbersome procedures,� the contractors said and asked as to why the system has not been made online yet.

The contractors have also claimed that unlike in the past, the Forest department is now insisting on royalty payment in advance.

�Earlier, royalty and other government taxes used to be deducted from the final bills during payment. There was no lapse whatsoever. It is not easy for all contractors to pay the royalty in advance,� the contractors said.

All these factors have led to a sharp increase in prices of construction materials, the contractors alleged, adding that the stone chips (3/4 inches) were being sold at Rs 2,800 per cubic metre now as compared to Rs 1,400 about two months back.

�The Forest department should have a clear-cut policy on forest produce. They should first decide if they want to do business with the produce or provide them for the service of the country. They should have a clear policy as to how they will issue the forest materials,� the contractors, who held a meeting this evening to decide on their future course of action, said. The contractors also cried foul on the way sand and stone quarries were being leased out.

The contractors are also aggrieved at the imposition of 18 per cent GST on construction materials. �What will happen to the projects awarded before July 1? Earlier, there was 5 per cent VAT. If the GST is imposed on them, there will be no profit for the contractors. The government should give some relief to the contractors in such works,� they demanded.

Construction materials have also stopped coming from Meghalaya due to legal hassles in the neighbouring State, adding to the shortage of materials.

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