The Rs 30,000-crore project to produce and maintain electric and diesel locomotive factories at Madhepura and Marhowra in Bihar stands delayed as both Planning Commission and Financial Commissioner, Railways have taken serious objection to unauthorised changes made in the eligibility norms for bidders. The norms have been finalised and cleared by the Union cabinet.
It is being alleged that the changes were made to favour particular companies, some of them multinational engineering giants, to make it easier for them to bid of the project. These changes in the specifications, if they were carried out, would also have increased the cost by Rs 16,405.70 crore or 50% higher.
Railways financial commissioner Pompa Babbar, before retiring on November 30, recommended that changes in norms be re-approved by Cabinet and new requests for quotation and proposal be called for from the multinational corporations. The wrangling were also brought to the knowledge of the Prime Minister by Mamata Banerjee, just days before she moved to Kolkata as West Bengal chief minister and was brought up again with Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi by Board on November 15, 2011.
Babbar in a letter to the railway board chairman Vinay Mittal has also asked for action against the officials who made the changes in the norms and that they be kept out the new pre-bidding process. Her letter says that the “anomalies, referred to by the due diligence committee, are of a serious nature (and) tantamount to misleading of the board and malafide (intention) in the case cannot be ruled out.”
Along the same lines, Sudha Pillai, member secretary, Planning Commission, told Mittal in writing on September 1, 2011 that frequent changes in norms “that are being proposed” had ensured that Railways could not bring pre-bid stage to closure and begin work.
While stating that Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission had repeatedly stressed in expediting the processes, Pillai recommended that all changes proposed in the Committee should be carefully examined with relevant approvals from the government.