Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis’s flagship infrastructure project, the Rs 46,000-crore Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communication Expressway, has landed in a fresh controversy.
At a time when a section of farmers affected by the project are putting up resistance, two organisations in the construction industry have objected to the bidding process to award contracts to build the 701-km road corridor.
The National Highway Builders Federation (NHBF) and Construction Federation of India (CFI) have complained to the PMO objecting to certain provisions in the request for qualification (RFQ) document for the project. They have alleged that these provisions were tailored to favour a handful of players. Both outfits also approached the CMO in this regard.
The bone of contention is that when MSRDC first published the RFQ on January 2, 2017, the contentious clauses for qualifying bidders were not a part of it. About 40 players submitted their expressions of interest. On March 29, 2017, the penultimate date for the bid, this RFQ was annulled and a fresh document was published, with the new clauses.
One new condition for qualification pertained to experience in building “access-controlled” expressways, freeways, motorways, and autobahns worth Rs 500 crore to Rs 1,300 crore in the last five years. The NBHF has alleged that the “restrictive” clause would allow qualification of only a handful of companies, leading to limited competition. The CFI’s letter to the PMO shared that opinion.
Fadnavis said he was not aware about the objections raised. “The bidding criteria are not decided at the government level. The MSRDC can throw light on these. But if I receive any memorandum, I’ll surely look into the case.”
However, official correspondence dated April 7, 2017 from MSRDC Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Radheshyam Mopalwar to Principal Secretary, Public Works Department, Ashish Kumar Singh indicates that the provisions, now contested, were incorporated in the RFQ on directives issued by the state government on March 10. The minutes, accessed by The Indian Express, show the decision on incorporating at least one of the contentious clauses was taken at the same meeting, following the CM’s missive that the selected contractors must be “technically and financially competent”.
MSRDC has written to the state government to take a call. Mopalwar said: “The conditions were incorporated to ring fence the government’s requirement to build the specialised expressway in a time-bound fashion. The government cannot afford delays on account of financial troubles of the contractors. Let us wait for the response the RFQ receives.” For now, the due date for the bidding has been extended to May 31.