Staff Reporter

NHAI under fire for ‘apathy’ in road maintenance

“Repair works should be done in the summer”

“Contractor-PWD nexus manipulating the system”

KOCHI: Road-repair works which were carried out to meet the deadline fixed by the State government will not last even for a few weeks, assert government contractors.

Secretary of the All Kerala Government Contractors’ Association Joji Joseph said that the contractors have given in writing to PWD offices concerned that the works carried out unmindful of rain and other adverse conditions will not have a guarantee. It was ideal that maintenance work and reinforcement of vulnerable stretches be carried out during summer months, since bitumen required at least two days to bleed and settle. Sadly, the government had not released funds on time, resulting in unmotorable roads in most parts of the State, he said.

Mr. Joseph said that it would be difficult to undertake road-repair and relaying works if the PWD continued with archaic modes of managing the work. Once potholes developed, there was a lot of delay in the tendering process and there were only six technical examiners in the State to inspect the quality and quantity of materials stacked for repair works. This caused delay, during which the potholes became huge.

“We are willing to carry out quality work if there is at least the guarantee that our dues will be paid on time,” he said, adding that it was high time the government changed its attitude towards carrying out road-repair work. Contractors were given Rs.140 as pay for each worker at a time when workers were hard to find for even Rs.300 a day. From the Rs.140, they have to pay seven per cent as sales tax, income tax and towards the workers’ welfare fund.

Mr. Joseph blamed the political patronage enjoyed by a section of PWD officials and contractors for the pathetic condition of roads in the State.

A senior PWD engineer said that a section of pre-qualified contractors who have top-level connections in the department manipulate the system and indulge in unhealthy competition to prevent other contractors from taking up road work. “The quality-inspection and vigilance wings of the PWD must ensure that road works are done as per norms. There are many unnecessary staffs in the department, eroding its resources and professionalism. It is high time mechanisation set into road works,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the National Highways Authority of India was under fire for its apathy in repairing the Aroor-Walayar stretch of the national highway, which passes through Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Palakkad. The PWD has been blaming the Authority for delay in sanctioning funds and for not handing over sufficient funds. Authority officials admitted that there was inordinate delay on the part of their head office in New Delhi in releasing funds.