It is ironic that a circle named after one of the most respected men of science is bogged down by the usual ineptitude the city's infrastructure projects are notorious for. Inefficiency, shortage of manpower and a never-ending blame game between the contractor and civic agencies… these are some of the reasons for the inordinate delay in completion of the Rs. 30.14-crore Prof. C.N.R. Rao Circle underpass connecting Malleswaram and Mekhri Circle to Yeshwanthpur.

The contractor, Madhava Hytech, blames the delay on shifting of utilities by Bangalore Electricity Supply Company, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board and even the traffic police.

“Traffic diversions were approved only in February this year, which delayed the project's commencement. Another reason is Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. not allowing us to close their entrance (towards the Yeshwanthpur side of the project) and prohibiting digging in front of it,” said a construction manager, who didn't want to be named. Taking into account these factors, he said he expected the project to be completed by March 2012 at best.

However, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) blames what it called the contractor's inefficiency in planning and execution of the project. The project, its engineer said, was on a turnkey basis and it was the contractor's responsibility to plan, build and coordinate with all agencies concerned. “The traffic diversion may have been delayed; but that is hardly the sole reason for the contractor completing only 33 per cent of the work. The project was taken up in January 2010,” he said.

He maintained that the contractor should have completed the service roads first to allow smooth flow of traffic instead of blaming traffic authorities or BHEL for the delays.

“They seemed to have planned the project thinking that the entire area would have been cordoned off,” said the engineer.

While the contractors on site said they had 160 workers at the underpass, the BBMP attendance roster shows an average of 30 workers working for one shift of the day. “We have set a deadline of December-end, and for them to finish it by then, they have to have a minimum of 100 workers each in two shifts,” said the engineer.

Pedestrians at risk

Meanwhile, with no footpaths, insufficient lighting and heavy traffic, it is the road users who are suffering. A.R. Nagaraj, who was waiting for a bus in front of the Indian Institute of Science, said: “It is hell to wait for a bus here. The air is full of dust and with no footpaths, pedestrians are at risk.” Mukunda Nijagal, a resident, said he takes nearly 45 minutes to just cross the road during peak hours.

A cleft stick

Deputy Mayor S. Harish said the BBMP was “tired” of the delays and had even considered handing over the project to another contractor. “Cancelling the contract and renegotiating for new contractors will further delay the project. Instead, we are trying to rope in another contractor to work with the existing one to complete the works within three months.”

If Madhava Hytech doesn't meet the December deadline, then the BBMP would invoke the penalty clause. “Considering that the company has overshot deadlines in the New BEL Road underpass and Kadirenahalli too, we will consider blacklisting it after the projects are executed,” Mr. Harish said.

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