White-topping work on hold, probe ordered

Chief Minister B S Yediurappa on Monday ordered a halt to Phase 3 of the controversial white-topping project.

Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Monday ordered a halt to Phase 3 of the controversial white-topping project.

The chief minister, who had reviewed BBMP’s budget estimates and withheld tenders a week ago, also ordered a high-level inquiry into allegations of large scale irregularities in the project.

In a special note addressed to the additional chief secretary, Urban Development department, Yediyurappa wrote, “Following multiple complaints about large scale irregularities and misuse of funds in Phase 1 and 2 of the white-topping project, I order holding a detailed inquiry and seek a report.”

An ambitious project of the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, the white-topping work had drawn flak from various quarters and was said to have been riddled with irregularities. 

The previous JD(S)-Congress coalition government had approved in February, an action plan of 14 development works including the white-topping work spanning 123 km of 89 different roads across Bengaluru at a whopping cost of Rs 1,172 crore. 

Phase 1 work on 29 roads and Phase 2 on 41 roads had overshot the deadline and had drawn flak for causing traffic snarls due to incomplete work and unscientific design. Similarly, Phase-3 met with intense criticism as the civic body completed the detailed project report (DPR) for Rs 932 crore in just eight days and floated tenders at lightning speed even before the deadline for submission of DPR by the agencies. The tenders were called only a few days before the announcement of the model code of conduct. 

Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun welcomed Yediyurappa’s decision but said the investigation team must comprise experts from IISc and road engineering department. “Only if there are experts in the team, will the committee do justice. Entrusting it to an IAS officer would be of no use,” she said. 

Srinivas Alavilli, member of Citizens for Bengaluru, told DH, “White-topping is a white elephant that no one asked for. All we asked for is pothole-free roads and not to pour concrete everywhere causing massive inconvenience and safety hazards. If indeed, the aim is to introduce new technology to build durable roads, we should have done one or two as an experiment, waited for a couple of monsoons, see if the massive cost is worthwhile, before scaling up. It is not too late, cancel the project and divert the funds for roads where they don’t even exist.”

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