If history, as it is said, were a dialogue between the past, the present and the future, the prospects of the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway and its impact on Gurgaon and its residents do not seem to turn for any better when considered against the backdrop of the performance audit conducted by the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in 2008 and a parliamentary committee review thereafter.
The MPs' panel noted in scathing words that "undue haste has been shown in giving the completion certificate to the concessionaire". Provisional certificate was given to the concessionaire on January 23, 2008 and commercial operations started on January 25, 2008.
However, the final-completion certificate was issued on August 22, 2009 even when the concessionaire had failed to complete work on "minor items". These were appended to the provisional certificate as a "punch list", to be completed within 120 days of issuance of the provisional certificate, i.e. by 24 May, 2008.
"This (haste) is evident from the fact that after the issuance of provisional certificate in January 2008, with the stipulated time period of 120 days for the completion of pending punch-list items, i.e. by May 2008, the same have not yet been fully completed as on October 2009," observed the panel.
"The concessionaire never completed the punch-list items. It then went on to sign a supplementary agreement with the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the latter waived off everything.
This was illegal as the NHAI could not write off terms of a contract and that too against public interest," said RP Indoria, director general (road development) and special secretary (retired) in the ministry of road transport and highways.
The concessionaire - Delhi-Gurgaon Super Connectivity Ltd (DGSCL) - refused to comment on the matter.
Some of the most significant items on the punch list went on to become items on the wish list of the residents of Gurgaon and plague the project even today - incomplete service roads, absence of adequate crossover facilities like underpasses and foot-overbridges, proper signage and landscaping, among others.
Termed "minor items", these have become nightmares for people as well as the project itself, transforming it from a public utility to a public nuisance.
"The concessionaire had to landscape the entire stretch of the highway except for the blacktop, but that has not been done till now: one can only see jungles along the expressway. It also had to maintain the junctions in a 100-metre radius, but they are full of potholes. Haryana Urban Development Authority maintains them out of ignorance as it is none of its responsibility. The concessionaire firm also had to relay the carriageway and the pavements, but it has not done that despite court orders," said Indoria.
The concessionaire was held responsible for "deficient performance" by the MPs' panel and NHAI was morally chided for the defence that it put forth. The agency tried to pass the buck, saying that completion certificate was given by the independent consultant and not by it.
The parliamentary panel had noted that this excuse "indicates that the authority has tried to shirk its responsibilities by leaving everything of this project of national importance into the hands of independent consultant".