October 18, 2021 1:14:32 am
The Maharashtra Public Works Department (PWD) has granted a one-year extension, without cost escalation, to the Larsen & Toubro (L&T) after the expiry of the three years contract for the construction of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial Project in the Arabian Sea.
The PWD had signed the contract with the L&T for Rs 2,800 crore and the three year contract period will end on October 18, 2021. However, on January 11, 2019, the Supreme Court, during the hearing of a petition, had asked the state government “not to proceed with the construction activity”. Subsequently, a stop-work notice was issued to the contractor by the PWD.
“The approval has been given for one-year extension to the contractor M/s L&T from October 19, 2021, to October 18, 2022, without any cost escalation,” stated the letter from the state PWD dated October 5.”
Making a case for the extension, the PWD’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial Division had cited court cases against the project, objections raised by CAG’s Accountant General about the tendering process and others and the Covid-19 pandemic, and said it would take time for the disposal of the court cases due to the pandemic and closure of objections raised by the CAG’s Accountant General, the proposal said.
The Memorial Division had proposed that the extension be given as the project work is stalled since January 2019 and the contractor has carried out only the bathymetry survey and partial geotechnical survey. Except for these works, a hundred per cent of the construction work is pending.
The actual work at the proposed project site in the sea has not started and no payment has been made to the contractor, it added.
Sources said the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has taken a cautious approach on the project, which has been dogged by troubles since it began. “Almost all the contracts have been given extension as they have been affected by the Covid pandemic. Also, the MVA government is in no mood to take any stand on the project as it is already facing the heat of the Maratha community after the Supreme Court scrapped the Maratha quota,” said an official.
Earlier, PWD minister Ashok Chavan in the state legislature had said that the project work would commence after the satisfactory closure of irregularities in the tendering and other processes that were flagged by CAG and after addressing environmental and safety issues raised in the court cases.
The CAG’s Accountant General report observed that the previous government’s decision to reduce the cost of the memorial by negotiating with the lowest bidder and changing the scope of work has “vitiated the tendering procedure and defeated the objective of transparency in the tendering process”.
The proposed memorial–212 metres in height, including a 123.2-metre equestrian statue standing atop an 88.8-metre pedestal–was a flagship project of the previous Devendra Fadnavis government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had carried out its ‘jalpoojan’ in 2016. The memorial project work is expected to cost Rs 3,600 crore.
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