Admin caught napping on defunct bypass lighting

2 years on highway plunged into darkness; PDD, R&B unmoved

SYED IMRAN ALI HAMDANI

Srinagar, Nov 19: For the past two odd years, driving down the busy stretch of Jammu-Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway snaking through the south City has been risky as this vital stretch is without lights while the administration is yet to wake up.
 With this being the government concern towards the vital highway, which caters to thousands of light and heavy vehicles every hour, particularly night hours, the plight of other roads could only be imagined.
 While scores of accidents have occurred on the highway stretch, some have even died. But all this doesn’t seem to have impressed the Roads and Building(R&B) department and the Power Development Department (PDD), the twin agencies which are looking after the road stretch managed on funds by Union Government.

THE REASONS
 The PDD has miserably failed to respond to public complaints that the highway lights are not working and that this darkness has been proving fatal for the people travelling down the 4-lane expressway.
 The PDD has a self-satisfying excuse that the contractor who was allotted the lighting project was yet to handover the work to the department and so they were not responsible. But a look into reveals altogether a different story.

THE CONTRACT
 A prominent Kashmir-based firm into power business had bagged the work in 2008 for the 17-kiolmetre stretch of the highway as a part of the widening from 2-lane to 4-lane.  The work, as per insiders, was scheduled to be completed in 9-months.
 But given the chronic delay in highway widening, only patches of the project could be fully completed. For the matter of delay in the highway widening, the 18-month project being executed by R&B, is still incomplete.
 “The private firm got the lights installed in the ready patches and commissioned them,” said a source in the PDD adding that the work on the other stretches could not be taken up in time as the sites were not ready.
  “Leave apart 2009 when the project was already delayed by two years some of the sites are still not ready because bridges, which were scheduled to come  up there are still not ready,” admitted a R&B official while hinting  towards the incomplete three bridges falling on the highway stretch.

THE DISPUTE
 The firm says after commissioning of the lights on the ready sites a problem erupted. “At places some of the transformers feeding the lights were stolen during the turmoil while elsewhere the infrastructure was damaged in accidents on the highway,” said employee of the firm associated with the project.
 He said though the issue was brought into the notice of PDD officials, they declined to take any action.
 “After commissioning of the lights, the firm was bound to give three years of maintenance and service. However, things like theft or damage to the material isn’t a part of the contract and so PDD was bound to take action on such issues,” he added.
 Documents reveal that the PDD was informed about the issues from to time but it seemingly slept.

THE ARGUMENTS
 A   senior official in the PDD said that the department was not responsible for any theft or damage to the equipment because of the project “is yet to be formally handed over.”
 The contractor on the other hand said the entire 17-KM stretch was still not ready.
 Though the contract has an option to end the deadlock, the same has not been exercised. Insiders said the contract has a clause for arbitration. “Over a dispute both the parties can approach an arbitrator,” said a official privy to the deal.
 But the PDD looks reluctant to utilize the arbitrator clause. The private contractor on the other hand says he was ready for arbitration.

THE IRONY
 As the PDD and the contractor continue to be on logger heads, the vital  portion of the bypass is void of lights leading to several accidents.
 “Last year because of poor visibility on the highway we had a narrow escape when our car crashed into a truck laden with LPG cylinders parked near the Rawal Pora Grid Station,” said the family from Pir Bagh area whose members were wounded in the accident.
 The accident triggered a hue and cry and many staffers from the Grid Station also rushed to rescue the wounded. But they were chased away by locals who accused the PDD of being responsible for the mishap.
 Though deadly accidents like these are turning into routine, the bypass continues to reel under darkness. This is despite the fact that Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon and other officials have held meetings after meetings to review the highway widening.

Lastupdate on : Mon, 19 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 19 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 20 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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