THE HYDERABAD-BASED firm M/s Nagarjuna Construction Company Ltd, accused of failing to meet construction deadlines for prestigious Crystal IT Park here — and thereby hindering investor flow — has been awarded the key contract in the ADB-assisted Narmada-III project, a scheme that is crucial to bridging the yawning gap between the City’s water supply and demand.
The ADB Projects empowered committee, chaired by Chief Secretary Rakesh Sahani, on January 15 gave the green signal to Nagarjuna for constructing an intake well for Narmada-III at a cost of Rs 22.16 crore. Work orders for the contract were issued on January 31.
The third phase of the Rs 671.72 crore Narmada project calls for siphoning an additional 360-million-litre river water to Indore everyday. Given the dire shortage of water in the City, especially in the summers, the importance of completing the project on time cannot be overstated.
Why, then, was the intake well contract awarded to Nagarjuna given its track record on IT Park? Especially when the Audyogik Vikas Kendra Nigam (AKVN) has repeatedly blamed the construction firm for delaying the Park? A charge that has been corroborated by the courts.
“The district court on January 12 dismissed a plea by Nagarjuna claiming that the project was delayed by frequent changes in design. Incidentally, the court also turned down a demand for additional payments to cover cost escalation and imposition of 12.5 per cent service tax”, revealed Nigam counsel Manoj Munshi.
While admitting that the original design was modified, AKVN Managing Director Ashish Shrivastava claims that the firm was granted additional time to compensate for this. “But they kept asking for further extensions. The truth is that the project was held up owing to weak management and inept labour practices”, he charged.
“As per the agreement, construction was to be completed within 15 months but Nagarjuna failed to deliver even after 42 months. So the contract was revoked”, he added.
Shrivastava, however, doesn’t question the firm’s ability only its inclination. “For some reason they were reluctant to complete Crystal Park. When I first visited the site I was amazed to discover that they were preparing “masala” manually instead of using a ready mixed plant. It was like a joke”, said Shrivastava.
However, Nagarjuna Construction Company senior vice-president (Finance), Y D Murthy, while speaking over the phone with Hindustan Times, asserted, “We are on a very firm wicket. The delays were caused by the client who failed to make timely payments. That’s why the project was held up”.
ADB Urban Water Supply and Environment Improvement Project (UWSEIP) Project Officer Prabhash Sankhla dismissed fears of Crystal Park-like delays hounding the Narmada-III project.
“NCC is one of the country’s leading firms and adequate contractual safeguards are in place to ensure timely project completion”, he stressed.