Public works department (PWD) minister Sharanjeet Dhillon has taken exception of general manager (GM) VK Gupta's accusation that the Punjab government was responsible for delay in construction of Lakkar Bridge and other railway overbridges in Ludhiana.
Giving sharp reactions to Gupta's comments, Dhillon said the GM was giving such statements to please his political bosses sitting in Delhi.
"He is just playing in the hands of union minister for information and broadcasting and Ludhiana member of Parliament (MP) Manish Tewari, as the MP was hell-bent on taking credit of the completion of the project," Dhillon said.
Contrary to Gupta's claims, the PWD minister said it was because of the Indian Railways that the project that started in 1997 was yet to be completed.
"The work which was to be completed by the state government has been finished within deadline, whereas the portion to be constructed by railways remains unattended. The Punjab PWD had completed 90% of its work in June 2011. The remaining 10% will be completed when the railways portion is finished, as joint piers are to be constructed over here," the minister claimed.
Asking Tewari to refrain from taking credit of the project, the PWD minister claimed that the project was completely state government's, for which 100% funding was being provided by the state government and Ludhiana municipal corporation.
Even for the part to be constructed by the railways, the MC has deposited funds amounting to Rs. 21.94 crore with the railways in December 2010, but it was deliberately delaying the project so that the Ludhiana MP could take credit for it before the Lok Sabha elections, the SAD minister claimed.
He said the voters of Ludhiana sent Tewari to Lok Sabha with the hope that he would do some work for the betterment of Ludhiana, but almost five years had passed in vain.
Notably, the work on completion of project is also being monitored by the Punjab and Haryana high court following a petition filed by an NGO, Resurgence India.
Say at least thanks: Congress
Reacting strongly to the statement by PWD minister, District Congress president Pawan Dewan said Tewari had played a major role in expediting the work by the railways by making repeated visits to union railway minister.
"Last time, Tewari met the railway minister on September 26. If the state government was so serious to complete the project, why has the delay occurred," Dewan stated.
'Both MP, SAD govt have failed'
Meanwhile, Right to Information (RTI) activist Kuldeep Singh Khaira claimed that in reality both the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-led state government and the local MP had failed to complete the project in time.
"These leaders must understand that people are laughing at their statements, since it was only after the intervention of the high court in January 2013, that the railways got serious about completion of the project. If our politicians were so serious, why didn't they discuss the matter with the railway ministry before filing of a PIL in high court by NGO Resurgent India," Khaira stated.
The plan to build a rail overbridge in place of the 105-year-old bridge was floated in 1997. At that time the municipal corporation had claimed the overbridge would provide easier access from the city's old areas to the newly developed ones, and claimed the project would be completed within two years. When the project was initiated, its cost was estimated at Rs. 13 crore, a figure that has now escalated to about Rs. 58 crore.
Though the upward ramps of the 933.162 metre bridge from the direction of the Civil Lines and the Reikhy Cinema side have been constructed, the portion on top of the railway tracks is yet to be completed.