DIBRUGARH, Oct 10 � Union Minister of State for Sports and Skill Development Sarbananda Sonowal has urged his senior colleague, Nitin Gadkari, the Union Road Transport and Highway minister, to adopt a special yardstick for the North-east, for speedy infrastructure development of India�s least developed region.
In a recent two page letter to Gadkari, Sonowal said it is necessary to help the region�s infrastructure sector contractors to become more enabled as their previous track record shows that they have a greater commitment for regional development, vis-�-vis the pure profit motives of contractors from elsewhere. He said that the earlier system of item rate contracts need to continue in the North-east, so that businessmen of the region become qualified and build up credentials for EPC (engineering procurement and construction) contracts in the coming years.
Sonowal said the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) had also espoused continuation of the earlier contracting system in the North-east in the case of highway construction works. This was stated in a ministry circular issued in October last year. The circular, no. RW/NH-37010/4/2010/PIC dated 30-10-2013 stated that in the case of SARDP (NE) � which is the acronym for Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North East � the works could be in the item rate mode instead of the EPC mode, for ease of execution and completion of projects.
It may be mentioned here that in the past ten years, development of conventional two lane highways in the North-east have been more or less satisfactory as the works were executed in the item rate mode, and the work packages were within the reach of contractors of the region, in the Rs 50 to Rs 200 crore range. With four lane expressway packages made out in Rs 500 crore- plus packages and that too in the EPC mode, there is zero progress of work. PWD engineers in Assam feel that with nobody coming forward to participate in the big expressway packages under EPC, the government will have to look at viable alternatives for actual expressway construction on the ground.
The Government of Assam is also in favour of item rate contracts. This view has already been made known to the Centre by the State Government, as Dispur is facing of lot of public ire at non construction of long promised four lane highways in the State.
Sonowal noted that contractors from outside the North-east have mostly exhibited their poor project execution abilities in the region, leading to huge and expensive delays. None of the big projects in the region have been completed in time, though the contracts were under EPC or the contractors otherwise with credentials. These big time contractors from outside the North-east have time and again proved their inability to properly function in Assam and in the North-east.
With none of the region�s big projects � highways, bridges, gas cracker, power plants � being completed in time, the people of the region have every reason to believe there is a deep rooted Delhi design to deprive the North-east from due development, which also triggers alienation. Many here believe this trend can be reversed only with local participation in development work. For that, norms would have to be localised, as urged by Sonowal.