NC, Cong, PDP, BJP and 3 Guv-rule spells couldn’t build a 2.5 km flyover

The governments of all four major political parties of the State – National Conference (NC) and Congress, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – and the three spells of Governor’s rule have together failed to build a 2.5 km Ram Bagh-Jehangir Chowk flyover.
Despite the added emphasis of the subsequent State governments as well as New Delhi on development and good governance, even after five years of its inauguration, more than 60 percent of the work on the flyover is pending.
The project started in 2013 under the NC leader Omar Abdullah-led coalition government couldn’t be completed in his tenure or the tenures of PDP leaders Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti-led government or even the three phases of Governor’s rule.
After Omar’s tenure, the flyover was not completed during any of the three tenures of Governor Narinder Nath Vohra.
His first tenure in the Governor’s rule started on December 23, 2014 and ended on March 1, 2015, after a hung assembly was thrown up.
The second stint of the Governor Vohra’s rule started in January 8, 2016 a day after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) founder and then chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed died.
The rule ended on April 6, 2016 when Mehbooba Mufti was sworn in as the chief minister of the State.
The third phase of the Governor’s rule is currently in progression, however, a full-fledged flyover is still a distant dream.
The project witnessed sluggish pace of work under the over three-year long tenure of PDP-BJP government which lost power in June this year.
Officially, the deadline for the project has now been pushed to September 2019 even though the contractor Simplex Infrastructure Private limited is itself skeptic owing to what they term as “indifferent attitude” of the State administration.
In the meantime, a flyover project was completed in Jammu city and a multitier parking-cum shopping complex is almost complete.
The work on the flyover was also very slow during the Omar Abdullah-led government with just 10 percent work completed from October 2013 to September 2014 when floods hit the Valley.
Simplex Infrastructure Private Limited is currently running in a loss of Rs 48 crore, which as per the Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA), is slated to double by the time the project would be completed.
Officially, at present, just 20 odd workers of the company are working on the project spread from Ram Bagh to Jehangir Chowk.
Following the 2016 Kashmir uprising, the PDP-BJP government had on paper agreed to compensate the company for the losses incurred on account of the continuous shutdowns.
“We had decided to walk out of the project in 2016 as per the tender guidelines but then they asked us to stay,” an official of the company said. “The government went back on its promise with the officials one day saying they will compensate us and the next day denying it.”
Top officials in ERA also blame the indifference of the PDP-BJP government, which transferred the Chief Executive Officer of the ERA four times in their three-year long tenure, for the delay.
The Phase D of the project (Tulsi Bagh-Barzulla) which was thrown open earlier this year comprises only 20 percent of the project while the work on three other phases is still on.
The Phase D is also not fully complete as a ramp near the Zam Zam Hotel side is yet to be thrown open while the other tube of the project from Barzulla-Tulsi Bagh is yet to be built.
The slow pace of work is also attributed to the fact that the administration under the Governor and two elected governments had created impediments for the company rather than clearing bottlenecks.
A top official of Simplex said, “As per the contract there is already an engineer from the Asian Development Bank who during the course of work has been monitoring everything on a daily basis.”
The official said the PDP-BJP government resorted to re-checking of the completed works in order to cow the company down.
“Here in Kashmir rumours fly easily and some people tried to defame us,” he said.
Sources in ERA reveal that a meeting on Monday to break through the impasse with the company has borne some fruits.
However, the company officials reveal that they are going to file another representation before the government in order to get their due compensation.
The company has been left without funds by the government, which ERA officials reveal has led to the company employing few labourers on the project.
“From where will they pay Rs 24 lakh as monthly salary to their employees? They have 73 machines on rent while they owe Rs 21 crore to local suppliers,” an ERA official said.
Ministers under the previous government had also asked the company to work on the project as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which had led to further delay in the work.
“Is this the work culture here where ministers mock at a 95-year-old company?” a company official said.
Simplex officials attribute the slow pace of work to negative perception built by electronic media which had led to the company not being able to bring in skilled workforce from outside to the Valley.
“People outside don’t want to come here as they think the situation is bad,” they said.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police also played its part in furthering the delay in work on the flyover by roughing up engineers and skilled labourers last year when a protest by locals was underway against braid chopping incidents.
“The news from here spreads to Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and adjoining north Indian states like a wild fire and of late Simplex hasn’t been able to get labourers here,” an ERA official said. “Once the work stops, it takes two months to start back at the same pace.”
In April this year, the work on the project was suspended for 11 days owing to shutdowns which led the company to seek compensation from the government.
However, the government dealt with the issue with a lackadaisical attitude, leading to further delay.
The pace of work has not improved since Governor Narinder Nath Vohra took over a month ago and even now the Simplex officials are pessimistic owing to the “bureaucratic mess”.
“One of the Chief Executive Officers if ERA being a bureaucrat couldn’t understand the technicalities involved in the project and told the company to wait till he leaves to seek compensation,” a top official in the civil secretariat said on conditions of anonymity.
The delay in completion of work has also been attributed to the 2016 Kashmir uprising along with the Kashmir deluge of 2014.
In May this year, the company had decided to walk out citing lack of ethics and no work culture in the government.
The flyover is divided into four phases – Jehangir Chowk-Magarmal Bagh (A), Magarmal Bagh-Haft Chinar (B), Haft Chinar-Tulsi Bagh (C) and Tulsi Bagh-Barzulla (D).
The work on structural base on Phases A, B and C would be completed by September 2019 and the second part of Phase D from Barzulla toward Rambagh is expected to be completed by year end.