New civic infrastructure works have become a casualty with payment of bills of contractors for works executed by them both under the present and previous government remaining pending in the Municipal Corporation of Ongole.
As a result, poor infrastructure facilities, including unmotorable roads and choked drains, are a common feature in many areas of the city.
Payments for different categories of works executed by contractors, including those done with the 14th Finance Commission grants from the Centre, and the Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan in over 70 slums predominantly inhabited by people from the weaker sections in the city, have remained uncleared for three years, laments a group of contractors.
They are now desperately looking for ways to pay mounting interests on loans taken from financial institutions, leave alone repaying the principal after executing works worth over ₹25 crore.
The problem is further compounded, especially during the rainy season, when low-lying areas are under a sheet of water and become fertile spots for breeding of mosquitoes, explains Ongole Town Development Committee chairman Marella Subba Rao.
The situation at the ground level is alarming as none of the contractors is ready to bid for tenders called for a majority of civic works, including CC roads and drains, in the 50 divisions though ₹10 crore had been sanctioned for the purpose by the government at the behest of Energy Minister Balineni Srinivasa Reddy in his home constituency of Ongole, according to official sources.
The response is no different in the case of a ₹10 crore contract for old bypass road works for which tenders have been called by the Roads and Buildings Department.
The newly-elected YSRCP corporators have persuaded a few contractors to take up works in 12 divisions but they insist on clearance of dues before starting new works.
The standard schedule of rates (SSR) finalised by the State government is also heavily loaded against contractors, who many a time burn their fingers in view of time overruns as the prices of steel, cement and other construction material go up during the period of execution of the contract, say a group of contractors.
When payment is not made in time, they have no option but to default on payment to banks, says a contractor K. Madhava Rao, who has been waiting for payment on completion of drainage work in the city in 2019.
“We have no option but to take to legal recourse to get our dues without any further delay,” Prakasam District Municipal Contractors’ Association president K. Pawan Kumar tells The Hindu .