Now that the issue of mysterious cost escalations in infrastructure projects is out in the open and the Congress seems determined to root out corruption, one hopes that the state government will probe or review cost escalations in all major projects.
Since it is taxpayers who will have to pay for the ballooning costs, directly or indirectly, they definitely have a right to ask the government to do so.
The hike in expenditure on irrigation is probably the mother of such escalations. The state is spending Rs 73,000 crore and despite cost escalations, many projects are nowhere near completion. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan should review other projects.
In 1999, the cost of the Bandra Worli sealink was Rs 350 crore. After a decade, when it had been built, its cost had escalated to Rs 1,306 crore. In 2001, the estimated cost of the proposed Mumbai Trans Harbour Link from Sewree in Mumbai to Nhava on the mainland, was Rs 4,000 crore. Ten years later, it has more than doubled to Rs 8,800 crore.
A major reason the project was delayed and the cost rose was that the consortium that won the contract by bidding low ultimately expressed its inability to complete the project at that cost. The government was generous to the consortium and chose not to take action. It will recover the extra cost from people who will use the sealink, if and when it is ready.
The Mumai metro is another example. IN 2003, the first line connecting Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar was to cost Rs 1,500 crore. Now its cost is Rs 2,356 crore.
Our civic body is not far behind. Two years ago, the civic body approved a cost variation of Rs 430 crore in a cement concrete road project. Between 2003-2004 and 2009-2010, the budget for 15 of its projects rose by more than 4,000%.
And does the latest purchase scam in municipal corporation, which reminds us of Commonwealth Games, qualify as another example? The amounts are too low, although the facts are startling: Rs 90 for stationery that costs Rs 67 in shops, Rs 80 for a set of notebooks that retail for Rs 50.
We all know that corruption has become an all-party phenomenon. Parties will make noise against corruption only when it suits them and ignore what is done in places where they rule.
Is it a wonder that people believe that a quick-fix solution such as the Lokpal is the only answer to rampant corruption that prevails in the state government, district councils and municipal bodies?