THE EXECUTION of the ambitious Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh has run into trouble with Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu approaching the central government to replace the construction company involved for delays that could impact its deadline, official sources told The Indian Express.
Sources said Naidu is “extremely unhappy” with the project allegedly lagging behind schedule and unlikely to meet the revised deadline of April 2019 — the original deadline was June 2018.
The project is being executed by Transstroy Ltd, which is owned by Cherukuri Sridhar, son-in-law of Telugu Desam Party MP Rayapati Sambasiva Rao. Transstroy was awarded the contract in March 2013 when the Congress was in power. Rao was a Congress MP at the time before switched to the TDP in March 2014.
Speaking to The Indian Express, a top state government official said, “The CM reviews the Polavaram project’s progress every Monday and he is extremely unhappy with the pace of work by Transstroy. The CM wants the project to be completed by 2019 but given the progress so far, it seems unlikely. A show cause notice was issued to Transstroy asking why the contract should not be terminated.”
Last September, the central government — TDP is an NDA ally — had declared Polavaram as a national project and agreed to fund the multi-purpose project, including a dam in West Godavari district, which aims to connect the Godavari and Krishna river basins.
Central government sources said that Naidu had “taken up the issue personally” with Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari during his visit to Andhra earlier this month. On Tuesday, state government sources said, Naidu flew to Nagpur to meet Gadkari and request the Centre to terminate Transstroy’s contract and award the project to a new company. Sources said that Gadkari, however, expressed reservations over such a move due to possible legal problems and fears that further delays may increase the cost by more than 30 per cent.
”The project is funded by the Water Resources Ministry. The Andhra CM’s demand may require the approval of the Union Cabinet. The Andhra government has suggested some alternatives towards speedy execution. Since the initial project and cost were approved by the Union Cabinet, any subsequent change would require its approval… more so, because the delay has inherent cost escalations,” said central government sources.
Sources said that Naidu is keen on completing the project before the Assembly and Parliamentary elections are held in the state in 2019.
When contacted, TDP MP Rao said, “I am not aware of what is happening in the Polavaram project. I don’t deal with it.’’
The project’s Superintending Engineer V S Ramesh Babu said that while the project was on in full swing, concrete work has fallen behind schedule. “Transstroy was issued a show cause notice for the delay in work and the issue has not been resolved yet. Transstroy has raised the issue of revising the rates as the project cost has escalated drastically since 2013,’’ Babu said.
Transstroy officials said the state government has not taken into consideration the escalation in cost over the last four years, which was “causing problems for the company in execution of work that requires lot of machinery and manpower”.
Sources said Naidu had suggested that Transstroy award sub-contracts to other firms to speed up the work but was still not satisfied with the progress made.
The delay has been criticised by the Opposition YSR Congress Party, which also demanded a high-level inquiry into alleged irregularities in the contract.
”Close on the heels of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s remarks that Polavaram should be built as a corruption-free project, Naidu rushed to Nagpur with a proposal to change the contractor, which shows the real intentions of the state. The Union Minister’s remarks make it clear that there are many irregularities in the project and the state wants to replace the present contractor who is a TDP MP,’’ YSRCP MP YV Subba Reddy said.
”The real intention is to take the matter to the legal corridors as the project cannot be completed within the promised deadline. If the contractor is changed, the earlier company owned by the TDP MP would be blacklisted and there is every chance that he would move the court, holding up the project indefinitely,’’ he said.