Afshan Yasmeen

`Stipulated rates are old'

BANGALORE: A "cold war" is on between asphalt contractors and the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BMP). This has delayed plans to upgrade roads announced by the civic body in the last few months.

Following the report of a High Court committee on road and drain works, asphalt contractors are reportedly reluctant to take up any project in the city. "It is difficult for us to implement the specifications and standards pointed out by the experts in the report at the cost agreed upon by the BMP. The rates stipulated by the BMP are two years old," a contractor said.

The contractors have said that the market rate of asphalt mix has increased from Rs. 13,473 a kg to Rs. 14,915 a kg. "We cannot take up work unless the BMP revises the schedule of rates," the contractor said.

Though the BMP has set up a three-member committee to resolve this issue, sources said the High Court committee's finding that "Indian Road Congress (IRC) specifications are not met in any of BMP's road building exercises" has caused a sense of "fear" among the contractors.

"It is difficult to ensure IRC standards as we upgrade the roads based on the volume of traffic flow. It is obvious that money spent on upgrading a crossroad is less than that spent on an arterial road," a senior official in the engineering wing said.

The civic body had promised several projects to upgrade roads in September-October, especially after the information technology companies raised their voice against poor infrastructure in the city and the damage caused to over 300 km of roads by heavy rain that lashed the city.

It had announced a "fast track" scheme for development of priority "A" roads. To enable the civic body take up the work without calling for tenders even if the cost exceeded Rs. 5 lakhs, the Government had exempted it from the Karnataka Transparency Act. The work was allotted to the Karnataka Land Army Corporation, and hurried estimates and project plans were submitted. Of the 10 roads allotted to the organisation, work has begun only on eight.

The spell of heavy rain forced the BMP to come up with an "emergency road repair and pothole filling" project. After a Central team assessed the extent of rain damage in the city, the State Government released Rs. 10 crores to the BMP to take up rain relief measures. The BMP had promised a major chunk of this amount for road repairs.

Accordingly, work to fill potholes began and the Commissioner even said that over 140 km of arterial roads in each of the three zones will be free of potholes by December 15, 2005. "We will soon announce a `spot-a-pothole' contest. If citizens spot a pothole on the identified stretches, we will reward them with Rs. 100 for every pothole," he had said. But almost a month after the announcement, potholes continue to dot the roads.

Now, Mayor Mumtaz Begum has said that all road works will begin by January 15 and completed within a month. "But paucity of funds is likely to further delay work," the sources added.