Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 30:
Charges of corruption against the Naveen Patnaik led Odisha government, so far voiced only by opposition parties and a tiny section of the media, now appear to be coming from the unlikeliest of sources.
The All Odisha Contractors’ Association, normally not the kind of organisation one would expect to level charges against an incumbent government, on Monday made the startling accusation that the BJD had been ‘pocketing’ an average of Rs 1,000 crore annually from the engineering divisions of Water Resources and Public Works Departments.
Speaking to media persons here, president of the association Pravat Das said; “There are about 200 engineering divisions under these two departments, which implement hundreds of projects through execution of agreements. Half the funds meant for such projects, below Rs 50,000, for which tender invitation is not required, go to the kitty of the ruling party.”
Presenting documents secured through RTI, Das said; “The Khurda (Roads and Buildings) division alone executed 15,447 such agreements between 2011-12 and 2013-14. The combined value of the agreements stands at about Rs. 77 crore”.
“Keonjhar division executed 6,012 agreements worth about Rs 30 crore in the last four years. We have been demanding that this system of agreements be scrapped, but to no avail,” Das told reporters.
Hitting out at the state government, the association accused it of deliberately ignoring the interests of state-based contractors.
The association further blamed the BJD government for designing tenders for infrastructure projects tailor made to suit big outside firms and keep Odia contractors out of such projects.
Secretary of the association Bhagyadhar Das alleged that while contractors from outside states were being awarded contracts for building projects at rates between Rs 4,000 and Rs 4,500 per square feet, the same work is awarded to Odia contractors for a meagre Rs 1,500 per square feet.
The association said Odia contractors were carrying out projects in Maoist affected districts where contractors from outside states are scared to take up projects. Despite the threat to their men and material, however, Odia contractors were not being given any protection by the Odisha government in these areas. That was the reason major projects in the Left Wing Extremism affected districts are suffering.
At least 500 contractors of the state are awaiting payments of around Rs 1,700 crore as dues arising out of cost escalation in the last two years. But despite court orders, they are not being paid, Das said.
The association alleged there was an ulterior motive behind the state government’s push for bailey bridges. It said these structures involve three to four times more cost than normal concrete bridges and are meant only for exigencies.
The association cited washing away of one such bridge in Mayurbhanj’s Palpala after the rains as an example of their unreliability.