Residents of Mulavukad Island boycotted a by-election five years ago frustrated over the continued apathy of authorities towards their longstanding demand to improve the condition of the 5.5 km-long road winding through the panchayat.
Travelling woes of the people get highlighted during every election and it was no different during that by-election held to the Ernakulam Assembly constituency necessitated by the election of sitting MLA K.V. Thomas to Parliament.
With yet another election at the doorsteps, a good road still remains a distant dream for the people as they continue their backbreaking journey along what is an apology of a road. Despite the launch of the first phase construction of the 2 km-stretch from the northern end of the panchayat, uncertainty prevails over its completion within the targeted period.
“The road work is progressing at snail’s pace and is likely to overshoot the April 10 deadline by almost six months. We will interrupt the work if the existing construction company fails to complete the work within the period and would demand that the work be entrusted to a new company,” said P.V. Udayan, the chairman of Mulavukad Grama Samrakshana Samara Samithi.
Blaming Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA) for the inordinate delay in the execution of work, he said the agency didn’t depute officials to monitor the progress of the work.
GIDA, however, said it was the responsibility of KITCO, which had been roped in as consultants. KITCO officials were confident that the work could be completed within the deadline, failing which the contract would be terminated and entrusted to a new firm through re-tendering.
Vypeen MLA S. Sarma said the attitude of GIDA emboldened the contractor to go slow on the work. He said replacing the existing contractor and retendering work would further delay an already long-delayed project.
M.R. Rajeev, panchayat member and convenor of the Samara Samithi, said the government dillydallying with the tender for the first phase works worth Rs. 2 crore led to an avoidable delay running into months.
The quoted rate in the only tender received for the project was 22 per cent above the estimate of Rs. 2 crore. “The government could have either gone for retendering or approved the only tender received. But instead of doing that the government sat over it before approving it in the wake of our intense protest. We laid siege to the GIDA office and even organised a hartal in the panchayat. Though the work was eventually launched in January last year, it gained momentum only this year,” he said.
While the first phase work of 2.5 kilometres from the northern end of Mulavukad is proving to be a tough task, undertaking work on the remaining 3 kilometres is likely to be a herculean task with some landowners yet to give up the land.
Mr. Sarma said efforts were on to procure consent letter from these landowners and to initiate tender for the second phase work. But this is easier said than done. Land is valued in three categories and prices fixed at Rs. 60,000, Rs. 80,000 and Rs. 1 lakh, which Mr. Rajeev said, were far less than the current market value in the area.