Coal scam puts spoke in State highway works

The multi-crore coal scam has cast a shadow on ambitious project of the State government  to convert a stretch of a State highway into concrete road under public private partnership (PPP).

Abhijit Infrastructure, the promoter of the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited’s (KRDCL) Hassan-Chikkanayakanahalli highway development project, has suspended the work as it is mired in the scam. The company is most likely to incur the wrath of the State government.

The KRDCL has sought the government’s permission to impose a penalty of Rs 1.19 lakh per day on the company for breaching the contract agreement: the fund-starved company has suspended the project work for the last three months and allegedly breached the contract agreement on achieving half-yearly targets set for project implementation.

The company had started implementing the Rs 246-crore project on January 5, 2012. The work went on smoothly till July last, when the allegation of the company’s involvement in the coal scam cropped up.

Charge sheet filed

The CBI, which is investigating the scam, has chargesheeted the owner of Abhijeet Group, Manoj Jaiswal, for alleged irregularities in getting coal block allocation. The CBI is also learnt to have frozen the accounts of the company and hence, it has not been able to mobilise resources to implement the project, officials said.

The KRDCL has fixed half-yearly targets for the company for implementing the project. Accordingly, it should complete 15.45 km of work in 180 days, 38.50 km in 365 days, 57.72 km in 540 days and 76.96 km in 720 days.

However, the company has so far completed only 2.28 km. Actually, it should have completed nearly 50 per cent of the work as per the agreement, KRDCL Deputy Divisional Engineer, Hassan, Veerabhadraswamy told Deccan Herald.

The KDRCL, Veerabhadraswamy said, has issued about four notices for the delay in implementation of the work. And Consulting Engineers Service Ltd, the third party agency to monitor the project, has issued nearly a dozen notices. The company, in its reply, has been assuring the government that it will restart the work shortly.

The consulting company recently recommended that the project promoter could be fined with effect from October 2012, as there was a provision for “cure period” of about 90 days for the  project delay. However, the promoter has completed earth work on about 35 km and made preparations for laying concrete pavement on about 16 km, spending close to Rs 60 crore, officials said.

As per the agreement, the company has been given two years for road development and 28 years for toll collection. If completed, it will be the first stretch of State highway to become a concrete road. Besides, the promoter has to widen the existing 5.5-metre road to 9 metres and construct cross-bridges wherever necessary on the route.
The KRDCL had recently implemented a similar road development project on Waghdari-Ribbonpally State highway.

When contacted, KRDCL Managing Director R Srinivas refused to comment.
DH News Service

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