M.R. Praveen Chandran
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With less than a month left for the deadline, the work on re-laying of the synthetic track at the University Stadium here has literally run into rough weather.
The erratic monsoon had played havoc on the schedule of work, forcing it to be suspended in June.
Ironically, in a year in which the State received its worst rainfall till the onset of the North-East Monsoon, the work remained suspended when there were many bright sunny days too.
The synthetic track at the University Stadium was laid in 1987 for the National Games and had outlived its utility.
The efforts to re-lay the track gained impetus when the previous UDF regime had allotted Rs. 1 crore. The Union Government too had provided an equal sum as matching grant while the Kerala University chipped in with Rs. 75 lakhs.
As per the guidelines of the Central Government, the University floated a global tender and BASF, a Switzerland-based company, won the rights to carry out the project.
Local sports goods manufacturer Shiv Naresh was entrusted with the job of completing the civil work at the stadium by BASF.
However, from the outset nothing went right for the project. The shipment of raw materials was held up at Kochi Port for three months.
A clerical error saw the shipment from Holland was send in the name of Kerala University Registrar instead of the Secretary, Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of Kerala which attracted a tax of Rs.13 lakh.
The error was rectified and the raw materials arrived at the University Stadium in May 2007.
But there was an inordinate delay to start the work as the planning committee of the Kerala University syndicate, headed by the late Thoppil Gopalakrishnan, refused to allot funds for the project.
The work began in February 2008 only after the new committee headed by A. Rasheed resumed charge and released 40 per cent of the funds.
Shiv Naresh completed the concrete work and finished the bituminisation of the track fairly quickly. But the summer showers and onset of the South-West monsoons in June delayed the levelling work of the bituminised track.
The company, which needed only 10 days to level the track, for some reasons didn’t start the work when the rain stopped.
As per the agreement with the University, Shiv Naresh was supposed to have completed the levelling work before October 20. The arrival of North-East Monsoon, which is unleashing its fury on the State, will delay the commencement of work. After levelling work, the company has to lay the border for the track. The deadline for finishing the border work is October 30.
BASF can lay the synthetic track only after the completion of the civil work. The deadline for laying the track is November 15 and as things stand it is unlikely that the work would be completed in time.
To add to the woes, the expiry date of the raw materials had elapsed in August. But University authorities maintain that the label only says ‘best before August 2008’ and there is no harm in using it now.
BASF is entitled to get the rest of the amount after it finishes the work and the quality of the track assessed. As far as the university officials are concerned there has not been any lethargy on their part and it is the company which has failed to honour its commitment.