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Works Secretary’s tenure extension raises eyebrows

| | BHUBANESWAR | in Bhubaneswar

Even though there have been several bridge collapses in the State and delays in completion of projects leading to huge escalation of costs, surprisingly, Works Secretary Nalini Kanta Pradhan has been given an extended tenure of one year by the State Government after his superannuation.

After extension of his service too, on April 18, two piles of the 16th pillar of Gurupriya Setu in Malkangiri district, which after completion is expected to be a lifeline for the people of the cutoff region of Chitrakonda, caved in, leading to the tilting of the pillar.

Locals have expressed concerns over the problem in the bridge and held the department’s lack of foresight and blatant corruption responsible for the low quality construction.

“The officials and the construction firm have misappropriated Government money and they should be given capital punishment,” tribal leader Ghanashyam Madkami demanded.

The BJP also criticised the Government for delay in completion of the bridge.

“You can imagine what construction quality is being maintained after such incidents occur. We would raise the issue during the ongoing Budget Session of the State Assembly,” BJP Legislature Party leader KV Singh Deo said.

Ever since the construction of the bridge began in 2014, Kolkata-based contractor-firm Royal Infra Limited has been given not one but four deadlines to complete the project. In the meantime, the project cost has escalated from Rs 104.4 crore to Rs 172.2 crore.

So the tilt in the pillar has once again pushed the future of the bridge into uncertainty as it is likely to delay the project which was earlier targeted to be completed by April 2018.

On March 29, the Malkangiri district Collector, in a letter to the Works Department Engineer-in-Chief-cum-Secretary had also alleged about the delay by the construction company.

Similarly on April 11, many students of the Government Polytechnic College at Randapali in Koraput district had a narrow escape as a concrete canopy of the first floor of the administrative building collapsed minutes after students left the place.

At least five bikes and two bicycles were completely damaged under the impact. According to reports, the canopy of the under-construction first floor of the college suddenly collapsed at about 11 am reducing the bikes and cycles to debris. Fortunately, several students, who were standing below the canopy a few minutes ago, had left to attend their classes at the time of the mishap and escaped certain death.

The cost of the under-construction building is Rs 46 lakh.

The quality of construction of another building is poor which has resulted in the mishap, locals alleged. The Roads and Building (R andB) Department, which has taken up the project, is neglecting the construction, they added.

During Pradhan’s tenure as Works Department Engineer- in Chief and Works Secretary, the Banki Jatamundai Bridge collapsed on August 27, 2014 leading to the death of two labourers and injuring 20.

In 2015, the span of Netapur bridge in Gop of Puri district got bend. Similarly, due to irregularities in the construction of Kathojodi- Trishulia bridge, there was a price escalation of a whopping Rs 32 crore.

Another glaring example of shoddy construction and nexus between the executing agency and the Works Department’s authorities is the Bomikhal flyover collapse in which a section of the flyover collapsed leading to death of a person and injuring more than 15 persons. Though the executing agency Panda Infra Private Limited was blacklisted by the Government, it was again allowed to complete the project on the plea that if another firm is selected it would delay the project further.

To make matters worse, the blacklisted Panda Infra was allowed by the Works Department authorities to carry on construction of the Pokhariput, Jatni and Sambalpur flyovers raising many eyebrows. Despite this, Work Secretary Pradhan, who was scheduled to retire on March 13, 2018 was given an extension of one year by the Government.

 
 
 
 
 

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