Punjab's public works department (PWD) has slapped the maximum penalty of more than Rs. 11 crore on three companies for not maintaining five important roads having a combined length of 277 km and violating the agreement with impunity despite being cautioned repeatedly.
The department functionaries have swung into action after secretary (PWD) Paramjit Singh Aujla directed the chief engineer to take strict action not only against the erring officials but also the concessionaires for not maintaining roads as per the agreement, according to official documents accessed by Hindustan Times.
Under this rare move, the major part of the fine (about Rs. 5 crore) has been imposed on Rohan Rajdeep Tollways, which has been maintaining Kiratpur Sahib-Una, Ropar-Phagwara and Patiala-Samana roads.
Besides, the government has imposed the maximum fine of Rs. 3 crore on Supreme Infrastructure, responsible for the Patiala-Nabha-Malerkotla road, while another concessionaire, Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL), which deals with the Bhawanigarh-Nabha-Gobindgarh road, has been fined about Rs. 4 crore.
Talking to HT, chief engineer (infrastructure) KK Garg said, "We will begin the process of recovering the penalty after ensuring that the concessionaires fully comply with maintenance as per the agreements."
The penalty, which is called "liquidated damage", has been imposed per day for every day of delay from different dates of the first week of October. But the penalty on a daily basis will not exceed the maximum penalty limit. For example, the per-day penalty for delay, imposed on TCIL from October 5, is Rs. 1.76 lakh, while the maximum fine is Rs. 3.51 crore.
Already, the fine imposed on TCIL has crossed the Rs. 1-crore mark. Similarly, the per-day fine imposed on Rohan Rajdeep Tollways has gone beyond Rs. 1 crore.
The decision to act tough against these companies was taken after high-ups of the PWD discussed the maintenance of these roads at the September 21 meeting. The authorities, as per official records, felt that the roads "are not being maintained" as per the standards of the concession agreement. Several rounds of meetings were held with the concessionaires also and they were asked to complete all routine maintenance works by September 30.
In this backdrop, the chief engineer (infrastructure) shot off "most urgent" letters to the superintending engineers on October 1. His letter pointed out that the secretary (PWD) has expressed concern and that "no laxity shall be tolerated" and action be taken against the concessionaires in case of non-compliance.
This matter was again discussed with the secretary (PWD), who expressed "annoyance for not maintaining these roads" and directed the chief engineer "to take strict action against "the erring officials and the concessionaires."
"You are asked to certify that all routine maintenance works… as per the standards prescribed in the concession agreement have been completed by the concessionaire and send certificates," the chief engineer's letter reads.
Meanwhile, the executive engineer, who inspected the Bhawanigarh-Nabha-Gobindgarh road being maintained by TCIL, found it "shocking" that no work of maintenance of any type was in progress despite this "non-serious and non-committal" concessionaire being advised in June.
The report of another executive engineer stated that one of the concessionaires was sending "false, incorrect and fabricated reports" about having maintained the road as per the agreement.
On October 18, the government was informed that the 'liquidated damages" had been imposed against the concessionaires handling five roads.
When contacted, secretary (PWD) Paramjit Singh Aujla said: "This (imposing penalty) is being done for the first time. We have to ensure that the public gets good roads, while the government has to play its role of regulator in public interest in the most effective manner."
Punjab government cracks the whip on concessionaires for poor upkeep of Kiratpur Sahib-Una, Ropar-Phagwara, Patiala-Samana-Patran, Patiala-Nabha-Malerkotla and Bhawanigarh-Nabha roads.
About Rs. 5-crore fine imposed on Rohan Rajdeep Tollways; Rs. 3.2 crore on Supreme Infrastructure; and Rs. 3.5 crore on TCIL.
* Cracks on surface of the road not sealed
* Parapets of culverts not repaired
* Choked drains
* Steel railing in the central verge along Patiala-Samana-Patran road not repaired/replaced