While Mumbaiites are complaining about the bad quality of roads, it has now emerged that a majority of the road repairs and reconstruction contracts — Rs4,259 crore out of Rs4,600 crore —were awarded to six contractors by the civic body in the past three years. The same contractors are now being probed by the police in the road scam for building sub-standard roads in the city. Experts have been pointing out how the poor quality of construction is a major reason why city roads develop potholes during the monsoon. This also throws light on the nexus between contractors, the civic administration and politicians.
According to data accessed by the Hindustan Times, the six contractors named in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) report into the alleged irregularities in the construction of roads bagged a majority of road contracts between November 2012 and May 2015. With less than a month’s rainfall, more than 700 potholes have been found on the city’s roads. Some of these roads are even in the defect liability period (DLP) or the guarantee period provided by contractors — five years for asphalt roads and 15 years for cement concrete roads.
In the past three years, almost all road contracts, except two or three, went to the same set of contractors. While some contracts of Rs50-100 crore were given to one contractor, projects costing more than Rs100 crore were given to joint ventures formed by these contractors. For instance, in January, a contract worth Rs387 crore for constructing cement concrete roads in the western suburbs was awarded to a joint venture of J Kumar Infraprojects and KR Construction. Likewise, another contract worth Rs248 crore for laying asphalt cover and improvement of roads in the island city was given to joint venture of Relcon Infraprojects and RK Madhani in February, 2014.
The police have registered a first information report (FIR) against six contractors — KR Construction, J Kumar Infraprojects, RPS Infraprojects, RK Madhani, Mahavir Infraprojects and Relcon Infraprojects — in connection with the road repair scam under Indian Penal Code sections 120 (A) (Criminal conspiracy), 197 (producing false documents) and 420 (cheating). The BMC has initiated a process of blacklisting these contractors.
A senior official from the civic body, who did not wish to be named said, “These contractors had a free run these past three years to bid and win tenders. In many cases, it was our officials who helped contractors through the bidding process. Even elected representatives in the civic body helped them.”
Civic chief Ajoy Mehta has also come down heavily on civic officials after the road scam was revealed, for helping the contractors to get tenders and allowing substandard repair work. In his ‘action to be taken’ report, Mehta stated, “This large irregularity could not have taken place without the active and passive involvement of senior officials and officials at all ranks.”
Significantly, the same set of contractors have undertaken other work of more than Rs1,500 crore in the city in various departments.
Citizen groups have demanded a probe into all the contracts and want the civic body to adopt tough measures to ensure quality road construction.
Shyama Kulkarni, a citizen activist from H west ward, said, “It is shocking that the same set of contractors have got all the major road works in the past few years. Why? They are responsible for carrying out shoddy road work, making it difficult for us during the monsoon. It is clear that the civic officials and contractors are working in connivance, or else it would have been impossible for the contractors to bag almost every contract.”