At least four construction companies are planning to exit the 150-km North Cachar Hills stretch of the East-West Corridor project, accusing the Assam government of failing to check extortion, kidnapping and killing of workers by militants of the Dimasa tribe.
Representatives of Gammon India, Valecha Engineering, TBL Construction and Taiwan-based Continental Engineering Corporation met additional chief secretary of Assam Parul Devi Das on Thursday and threatened to quit the project worth over Rs 800 crore.
The East-West and North-South Corridors, conceived during the National Democratic Alliance's regime, have hit several road bumps so far. But in the case of North Cachar Hills, an autonomous hill district in Assam, militants of the Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel), or Black Widow, have been the spoilsport.
Barely two per cent of work on this stretch has been completed although the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) assigned the job in March 2007. The companies stopped work eight months later, saying assurances from the state government were “not convincing enough”.
“It's impossible to carry on in North Cachar Hills even if the NHAI insists. We are seriously considering pulling out,” said Hsiung Chiang of Continental. “The insurgent groups ask for money, resort to kidnapping, killing and threaten to kill the contractor's men,” said Gammon's SY Warty.
Valecha Engineering director Dinesh Valecha said, “On two occasions, engineers and other staff of Gammon were shot dead. Our staff were kidnapped for 46 days. On March 3, militants attacked security forces stationed at our camp site. Our security personnel had to be rescued by the army."
Also, the Northeast Frontier Railway's gauge conversion work in the area has been suspended, with contractors pulling out last year.