Restoration work on the 177-year-old Asiatic library building at Fort has been stalled for the last week due to a disagreement over dues payable to the contractor.
"We were passionate about this project ever since we began working on it in 2009 and now we had to stop work because of insufficient funds," said contractor Shrinivas Sulge. His firm, Laxmi Waterproofing and Construction, completed work on the southern wing of the building on time and proceeded to Phase 2, the northern hall, the roof of which has suffered severe structural damage.
Sulge says the state public works department (PWD) owes him around Rs2 crore. However, RK Sarote, deputy engineer, PWD central sub-division, insists that his department owes the contractor not more than Rs75 lakh. "He has not considered the advance payment of Rs1.1 crore we paid him over the past year," said Sarote. Sulge disagrees. "I submitted all the bills and some of them have been pending for around a year," he said.
Abha Narain Lambah, PWD consulting architect for the project, says the sum due to Sulge is close to Rs70 lakh. "On October 17, Rs7.5 crore was sanctioned for Phase 2 of the Asiatic Library restoration. It is only a matter of time before the funds are released." The entire revamp is likely to cost around Rs18 crore.
For now the stoppage of work is not likely to affect the structure, but Sulge says one-fourth of the roof still needs to be completed before the next monsoon, which could pose a problem if the payment does not come through soon.