Monday, November 28, 2022

Kamaleah road scam under Court scrutiny


Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench, on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is to hear the court-constituted committee report Wednesday on three incomplete road projects in Kamaleah area under Meluri sub-division of Phek district, despite payments having been reportedly released.
The PIL sought the court’s intervention on the alleged road scam where an amount of Rs.92.04 crore for three projects were released and withdrawn but major portions of the works incomplete even after expiry of the schedule.
According to documents made available to media by village councils of Lephori and Kanjang, the three road projects include- Akhen to Star Lake (15 km); Lephori to Molhe Post (28 km) and T.01 (Akash bridge) to Kanjang (38 km).
Work order for the first project (Akhen to Star Lake) worth Rs 5.69 crore was issued on April 11, 2011 to M/s Rhino Construction Agency. Another work order for Lephori to Molhe Post estimated at Rs 30 crore, with two additional fund allocations of Rs 15 crore, each totalling Rs 60 crore, was issued on November 20, 2011, to the same agency (M/s Rhino Construction Agency). The work order for T.01 (Akash bridge) to Kanjang totalling Rs 26.72 crore was issued on November 21, 2017 to M/s Nagaland Steel Engineering.
The first two projects were scheduled to have been completed within 24 months; with the first (Akhen to Star Lake) having expired on April 11,2013. The second (Lephori ro Molhe Post) expired on November 20, 2013. The third project (Akash Bridge) was supposed to be completed within an 18-month period which expired on May 21, 2019.
The work orders specifically mentioned in point No.10, that “No extension of time shall be entertained without any valid reasons other than those which are beyond the Department’s control, such as wars, riots or natural calamities etc.” Again, Point No.11 stated: “No price escalation or enhancement of rate shall be entertained”.
Addressing media persons at Lephori, village council (VC) chairman Zarpa Katiry disclosed that a total of Rs.92.42 crore which was the total estimated cost of the three projects, were released and withdrawn but works were far from complete as specified in the work description.
The village council chairman also alleged that even completion certificates had been issued by the department without verifying whether the works were executed according to Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) or whether any work was being done at all.
Referring to third work T.01 (Akash bridge) to Kanjang, he said the entire stretch measuring 38 km was yet to be blacktopped and that only around 9 km had been blacktopped though metalling has been done on the rest.
As per the DPR, he said 58 hume pipes were to be installed on the stretch from T.01 (Akash bridge) to Lephori measuring 19 km. However, only four hume pipes were installed so far, he said.
Katiry also pointed out that there were no retaining walls, breast walls, RCC slab culverts on the stretch which were clear violations of the work allotment as prescribed by the department.
He disclosed to the media, that works of all the three projects were awarded to M/s Rhino Construction & Agency and Nagaland Steel Engineering Works, which were owned by one person.
Katiry disclosed that the people of the area had no personal issues with the contractor, but that when public fund meant for development and betterment of an area was withdrawn, it should be utilised for the purpose intended and for the benefit of public.
He said even if the contractor may have faced logistical and technical difficulties while undertaking such works, yet the outcome would have been totally different if at least 50% of the fund was utilised or that even 50% execution of the total prescribed work would have greatly benefitted the people.
He pointed out that previous Village Council executives had issued completion certificate although they were not the authorised nor competent to do so.
Katiry also revealed that the VCs in the previous term (2016-2021) had also come out in support of the contractor in public and this action invited strong disciplinary action from apex body Puchury Hoho.
In this connection, the Pochury Hoho, at its emergency meeting on June 7, 2022 at Meluri town, had resolved not to allow ex-VC chairmen of Akhen-Akhalie, Kanjang-CH Ahen, Lephori-Lovisie Joshou and Matikhrü-Mhasi Katiry from holding any public office for 10 years.
Speaking to media persons at Kanjang village, VC chairman Jonjangalso said that although the work order was issued by the department way back in 2011, most of the people in the area came to learn about it only during the early part of this year (2022).
“The contractor undermining the people of this area to such an extent was very disappointing. He even threatened us (Kamaleah area council leaders) when we went to meet the chief engineer of PWD at Kohima,” Jonjang claimed.
He alleged that the Contractor was instead engaged in a private project – logging activities and not road activities in Kamaleah area. Jongjang said even though the people were aware of this, yet they did not react since they felt the road would benefit them so long as it was being built.
Jongjand heaped praise on another contractor- Pfuduolhou Kense- who had constructed the road from Kanjang to Akhen and Akhen Reguri measuring 22 km under PMGSY, funded by Union Ministry of Rural Development way back in 2014. Jonjang said Kense’s honesty in carrying out the work was appreciated. He said the road was “still in a very good condition” even after eight years which was a testament of quality workmanship.
Highlighting the plight faced by people of the area, Jongjang said people had to travel long distance to the nearest hospital at Meluri town to get medical attention. He said for delivery cases, people faced huge hardships due to the distance and the poor road condition.
Jongjang said prayer of the people of the area for good roads because of several accidents during the past several years, has remained unanswered. He said even though the government had sanctioned projects the funds have been misutilised.
Jonjang also appreciated Rising People’s Party for raising the issue, besides investigating it which led to revelation of work orders in public domain.
He alleged that the Contractor had taken advantage of the situation arising out of disunity among present leaders of the area.
Jongpang also lamented that “Kanjang is the first village in Meluri area to embrace Christianity and we are preparing to celebrate the centenary soon. However, the road condition is still in a dilapidated condition.,”
Interacting with media persons at Akhen village, advocate Joshua Sheqi disclosed that as per the directive of the Gauhati High Court on the government, the controversial road project was inspected by a court constituted committee.
He said the objective was to ascertain if the ground works were in consonance with the contract agreements including DPR.
Sheqi maintained that works should be as per the specifications contained in the contract agreement.
He said the committee would be presenting its report to the court at the next hearing, listed for Wednesday.

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