A day after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi summoned NHAI officials after finding patches of national highway connecting Amethi and Rae Bareli “missing”, Union Road and Highways Minister Oscar Fernandes sent a letter to the state government stating that he will reach Amethi Saturday and hold a review meeting.
His letter came even as his ministry and the UP Public Works Department (PWD) began the exercise to fix the responsibility for the mess on the 52-km stretch referred as “VVIP stretch”.
Fernandes would personally hold “special review meeting” between officials of UP PWD and the NHAI at Munshiganj to resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, the state government began its own exercise Friday and Chief Secretary Jawed Usmani summoned files related to the project and put senior officials of the PWD on the job to find out if the contractor was at fault and “forfeit his earnest money if found guilty”.
While both the Union ministry and the state government are trying to find out what went wrong and whom to hold responsible for the present condition of the “VVIP” road, The Indian Express found that it was mainly “gaps in the system” that left the project in lurch for the past 10 months ever since it was handed over to NHAI by Sultanpur wing of the PWD.
The project is a part of about 290-km long National Highway-31 that connects Tanda in Ambedkarnagar district to Banda district in Bundelkhand via Rae Bareli and Lalganj. Starting from Tanda, this stretch of 52-km starts from 98-km mark in Gauriganj area of Amethi and ends at 150-km milestone in Rae Bareli city.
In 2010, a contract worth Rs 27.10 crore, funded by Centre, was allotted to Dwarika Project Limited of Noida by National Highway wing of UP PWD.
As per records available with the PWD, work on the road began on September 14, 2010. Though, as per the agreement with the contractor, the work on the stretch was supposed to be completed by March 3, 2012, contractor sought seven months extension. As a result, the work was finally completed on October 14, 2012. There is a two-year defect liability period for the road that ends October 14, 2014. During this period, the responsibility of maintenance lies with the contractor.
Meanwhile, in January 2013, Union cabinet committee on Economic Affairs cleared the proposal for widening and strengthening of the entire 290-km long NH to two lanes with paved shoulders at an estimated cost of Rs 1,119 crore. The 52-km long stretch from Gauriganj to Rae Bareli was also part of this project.
As a result, Union road ministry requested the state government for transfer of this highway to NHAI in early 2013 so that it can be strengthened on engineering, procurement and construction model. The transfer of the highway from UP PWD to NHAI took place in March 2013.
Thus, the confusion over the responsibility of maintenance of the project prevailed for past 10 months till Rahul got the first hand experience of the road during his two-day visit to his parliamentary constituency on January 23.
NHAI officials say that it was the Union ministry that paid Rs 27.10 crore for the construction of the road and since the project is still under the “Defect Liability Period” thus state government should seize the earnest deposit of the contractor and take up maintenance work.