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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

Ganda Nullah project mired in controversies

Arjun Sharma, Hindustan Times  Ludhiana, December 04, 2012
First Published: 00:15 IST(4/12/2012) | Last Updated: 00:17 IST(4/12/2012)

The project to cover Ganda Nullah from Gurdwara Dukhnivaran Sahib to civil hospital has remained mired in controversies ever since its inception in 2004.

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What is surprising is that the municipal corporation went against the recommendations of the sewerage board and started covering the nullah in 2005 without any knowledge of the area.

The sewerage board had recommended stopping residents from throwing garbage in the nullah as the only way of cleaning the water channel.

Moreover, the sewerage board had also advised that no underground sewerage could be installed, neither should the nullah be covered. But these recommendations fell on deaf ears.

On the other hand, names of as many as five top officials of the municipal corporation surfaced in a Rs. 1.75-crore scam in the project.

The scam was unearthed in 2008, following which an inquiry was marked against five officials to a retired IAS officer Joginder Pal Puri. Marked on June 13, 2008, the inquiry is yet to come to a conclusion.

Officials allegedly involved in the scam included Ashok Kumar, superintending engineer (now retired); Kashmira Singh, executive engineer (now retired); Dharama Singh, superintending engineer; Parveen Singla, sub-divisional officer; and Kuldeep Singh, junior engineer.

The matter surfaced again recently after Ravi Sharma, an RTI activist, sought information.

Following levelling of allegations against these MC officials, principal secretary of department of local bodies had shot off letters that covering of the nullah was against the advice of the sewerage board. Copies of the letters are with HT.

As many as four allegations were levelled against Ashok Kumar for negligence in duty.

"Tenders for work were invited on March 18, 2004, that were recalled on October 2, 2004. Process was again postponed and tenders were invited on October 26, 2004, and were recalled on November 5 same year. No press clipping is available in regard of tenders on November 5 that indicated that no wide publicity was done," states a letter.

Three agencies submitted tenders for the work, out of which two had no prior experience of a similar project.

"Only to complete the three tenders, these two companies were invited. It becomes clear that there was no competition in tender process," the letter states.

The letter also mentions that rules were flouted in the payment of earnest money.

Another allegation against Kumar was that the design of the nullah was converted from open to box type sewer, then to box culvert to RCC framing type.

"It becomes clear that work on the project started without technical knowledge," states the letter.

In his letter to XEN Kashmira Singh, the principal secretary states that bank guarantee as earnest money was not revalidated after September 22, 2006, but the work on the project was not complete. In this way, MC lost the authority to take action against the contractor when required.

Singh recommended that nullah be covered with slabs when the work was on. Recommendation was made on December 15, 2006. However, a slab was also put on nullah few years back that was broken due to cleanliness issue. No proper planning was done for covering the nullah again.

The principal secretary also shot off letters to Dharam Singh, Parveen Singla and Kuldeep Singh, that stated that recommendations were made on December 20, 2006, that nullah be covered with slabs.

A note was also given by the principal secretary stating that Rs. 1.75 crore was spent on work and it was still incomplete.

"Residents have not benefited from the project in anyway. Technical and financial aspects of the project were ignored and work started. There was no transparency in inviting tenders and design of the project was changed repeatedly," the principal secretary said.

"Ignorance was observed in your work that put MC in loss. As a ,result you are held responsible for the allegations," the letter sent to these officials stated.

Interestingly, remodelling of the nullah restarted in 2011, which is also yet to see light of the day.

MC officials have attributed dearth of funds and encroachments en route to the delay in completion of work.

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