DIBRUGARH, July 11 - Work on the Numaligarh-Jorhat-Demow section of the proposed Nagaon-Dibrugarh four-lane highway is yet to start even after ten months of the contractors getting their work orders. Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari had ceremonially inaugurated the work at a function in Jorhat on April 30 this year.
Of the approximately 380 km of the proposed four-lane expressway between Nagaon and Dibrugarh, work orders were issued in October last year for the Numaligarh-Jorhat, Jorhat-Jhanji and Jhanji-Demow sections. The first section went to Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) of Mumbai and the latter two sections were awarded to a Spanish company, Isolux Corsan. While HCC has begun some semblance of work in the past fortnight, the Spanish company is still to get going, reportedly inviting the ire of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and even Gadkari himself.
The remaining portions of the route, Nagaon-Kaliabor-Tezpur-Gohpur-Numaligarh and Demow-Bogibeel Junction (Dibrugarh), are yet to be ready for tender notification by the NHIDCL (National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited). The Nagaon-Numaligarh section will cross the Brahmaputra twice, at Kaliabhomora and Numaligarh, where two more bridges will also be constructed across the river. This is in addition to the other minor and major bridges along the route.
The Spanish company, Isolux, is learnt to be in the process of sub-contracting its awarded works to various contractors. One such group is a combination of a Manipur-based contracting firm and the Indore (Madhya Pradesh)-based KT Construction. Isolux Corsan is believed to have hived off the Jorhat-Jhanji and Jhanji-Demow sections to this combination for 9 per cent royalty. KT Construction and the Manipuri contractor will pay 9 per cent of the total work value (almost Rs 950 crore) to Isolux. The Spanish company has allegedly taken full advantage of India�s faulty credential system and in the process, makes a clean profit of at least Rs 85 crore without doing anything just because they have the credentials.
It is this faulty credential system that Assam-based contractors have been complaining against. They have been petitioning both the Assam Government and the Centre against the system that denies them the privilege of becoming prime contractors, relegating them to the status of sub-contractors. As sub-contractors, their credentials will never accrue in the official records, though the fact remains that unless these local contractors work, no road construction is possible.
Companies like Isolux also have a time-tested modus operandi to browbeat the Government. Wherever this company, along with the sub-contractor actually works, they do so in areas where the locals are in a hostile mood due to a variety of reasons. Obviously, at such places, the local population will put up some resistance to work, and this is what companies like Isolux love. They will report back to the Government that due to local conditions, they cannot work and thus seek more time for work execution. They thus are spared penalties, and their bank guarantees remain intact. But Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has reportedly learnt of these contractors� tricks and the general public here hope that contractors, who are compulsive non-performers, are given the boot in greater public interest.