While the Rs 21,500 crore Guru Gobind Singh Refinery near Bathinda is set to be launched formally on April 28 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,contractors who had worked on the project for years are crying foul over pending dues worth hundreds of crores.
The unit popularly known as Bathinda refinery is the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) in Punjab since independence,and is a joint venture of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) and Mittal Energy Ltd,a subsidiary of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittals company.
Primarily,eight contractors were hired by Hindustan Mittal Energy Limited (HMEL) to work on recommissioning the refinery,which includes L&T,Petron Engineering,Petron Civil,KazStroyService,VRC,NathfaGas,Febtech,Thermax; while two contractors,including Kalpataru and KazStroyService,were assigned the task of the Mudra-Bathinda pipeline. Of these contractors,a few allege that their outstanding dues have not been cleared by the HMEL even after completion of project work.
Sources disclosed that outstanding dues run into over Rs 500 crore. While talking to The Indian Express,Kalpataru President Anup Aggarwal said,Yes,there is are outstanding dues to be paid to us for the work done on the refinery project. The outstanding payment has not been cleared yet. As far as the exact amount of the outstanding amount is concerned,such a figure is a confidential matter and we will not disclose it. We shall exercise legal remedies if HMEL delays payment further.
KazStroyService,which conducted the commissioning of Bathinda refinerys plant,is also in constant talks with the HMEL management,requesting them to clear outstanding dues since the workers on the project have not been paid for the last few months. The communications exchanged between KazStroyService and HMEL (in possession of The Indian Express),state that despite the contractor requesting HMEL to repeatedly clear their outstanding dues,the HMEL has not responded to most communications and not cleared the payments either.
Spokesperson of KazStroyService,Reena Jain said: HMEL is required to pay us around Rs 350 crore. We have raised invoices for the same,but to no avail. The workers are sitting idle and we have asked HMEL to even pay the compensation to workers for the period when they were made to sit without work. Also,despite repeated letters sent to HMEL,we have not got adequate response till date. We have asked them to pay us at least Rs 35 crore for the time being,so that we can at least pay salaries to the workers,who have not been paid for the last many months. Since July 2011,we have not received even a single penny from HMEL.
On the other hand,Refinerys Managing Director and CEO,Prabh Das denied the claims and said,We do not have any outstanding dues. In case any contractor has not been paid,they can get in touch with us. As far as we are concerned,all payments as per the contracts terms and conditions have been cleared.
Petron Engineering (another contractor) Managing Director T S Dass said,HMEL owes us around Rs 20 crore. We have informed them about it,but the company has not cleared dues yet. Our contract with HMEL was of around Rs 200 crore,of which this 10 per cent is pending.
The construction at the refinery began in 2008,and the mechanical completion of the refinery was done in August 2011. The company has got a crude oil terminal and a 1,017 km cross-country pipeline constructed in a record time of 27 months. The projects foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998. However,the project got stalled when the Congress government led by Captain Amarinder Singh came to power in Punjab in 2002 and raised objections on its terms and conditions. But the Akalis revived the project in 2008.