Updated: December 27, 2021 7:07:23 am
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is learnt to have taken cognizance of the tussle between the Home and Water Resources ministries over the “poor construction” of an Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) outpost on the western bank of Pangong Tso in Ladakh.
Sources said the vigilance watchdog has opened a probe into the ambitious border infrastructure project after complaints by ITBP that the National Projects Construction Corporation Ltd (NPCC) had failed to deliver the project to its satisfaction despite an expenditure of over Rs 20 crore.
The ITBP is one of India’s five Central Armed Police Forces, which are governed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The NPCC is a PSU under the Ministry of Water Resources.
“A CVC technical audit team visited the concerned BoP (border outpost) in Ladakh a couple of months ago. It has taken possession of all the documents related to the project and is currently examining them,” a senior government official said.
Sources in the NPCC confirmed that a CVC team had visited Ladakh to inspect the project. “We have handed over everything they wanted. We want the CVC, an independent agency, to probe the project and come up with a conclusion. The impasse remains unresolved despite multiple meetings between the two ministries,” an NPCC official said.
Sources said NPCC has advised the Home Ministry to hire another agency to complete the project if it is not satisfied with the work.
The BoP in question is at Lukung on the western bank of the Pangong lake, which saw a nine-month standoff between Indian and Chinese troops last year.
The Indian Express reported in its edition of September 19 that the project had been launched in 2015—one of over 40 planned BoPs intended to provide better living conditions for troops along the Sino-Indian border.
The BoPs were supposed to be first-of-their-kind structures in the region, with freeze-proof toilets, running water, and temperature maintained above 22 degrees Celsius at all times.
The project was seen as a significant step in improving border infrastructure for frontline troops at a time when infrastructure on the Chinese side is seen to be years ahead of India’s.
The project was awarded to NPCC, which began working on the Lukung BoP as a pilot. Five years later, and after spending about Rs 20 crore, the project has, for all practical purposes, been declared a failure by the ITBP, a contention that has been refuted by NPCC.
Sources in the ITBP and the MHA said the BoP is unable to maintain temperatures above 10-11 degrees Celsius, and that the quality of construction is so poor that the 40-odd jawans staying in the BoP have begun to miss the insulated pre-fabricated huts where they stayed earlier.
The MHA, sources said, is so unhappy that it has not only stopped part payment to the NPCC for the project, but is also thinking of dumping the project altogether.
The NPCC, on the other hand, has blamed ITBP and the MHA for the failure of the project, claiming that the withholding of payment has resulted in the sub-contractor not maintaining the heating system, which has impacted the efficiency of the BoP.
Sources said ITBP has withheld payment to the tune of over Rs 5 crore to NPCC for its failure to maintain the desired temperature within the BoP.
“ITBP and NPCC have had multiple meetings on this issue, but the former is not ready to release payments. Contractors and sub-contractors involved with the project are suffering because of this. NPCC has even proposed that if the MHA is dissatisfied with its work, it can withhold 10% of the payments and release the rest. It can use that money to hire another agency,” an official privy to the negotiations between the two ministries said.
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