Planting paddy is not an unusual sight in Chhattisgarh, described as the ‘rice bowl of central India’. But the sight of youth doing the same on the busy streets of state capital Raipur surely caught the attention of locals last week.
The act was, in fact, a protest organised by Congress workers against corruption in projects undertaken by the Public Works Department (PWD), which was uncovered in a recent CAG report submitted to the state Assembly.
According to the report, the Raman Singh government has suffered huge losses owing to negligence, mismanagement and corruption in the department.
Several irregularities have surfaced in the PWD, including gross negligence in road projects. It is nothing less than a tragedy for a state where big promises are made of laying a network of roads to develop areas under the so-called the red corridor and tackle the Naxal issue. In the Naxal-hit district of Kondagaon, private contractors were paid Rs 49.02 lakh in addition to the initial cost despite an outstanding payment of Rs 2.94 crore as fine levied on them for delaying construction work by six years.
In Nandghat-Chandrakhuri, the contractor used retail asphalt whereas he had to use packaged asphalt in road construction. The resulting cost difference, which the department should have received from the contractor, stood at Rs 10.66 lakh, but no payment was made.
According to the CAG report, payment for the Kawardha-Regakhar road link is also suspicious as the contractor was paid Rs 18.07 lakh despite not doing any work. Records, however, show the work as complete.
Another instance of negligence is the construction of Kanker-Bhanupratappur- Sambalpur road. The road width was set at 5.5 metres as per rules but it was increased to 7 metres at an avoidable expenditure of Rs 1.4 crore.
Cases of fraud have surfaced in the Indira Awaas Yojana as well. For marking every house with a logo, the government had set aside 30 per logo. However, the payment was made for Rs 270 per logo in Jagdalpur.
“Improper implementation of schemes and mismanagement has resulted in the misuse of government funds and wastage of crores of rupees,” says state Auditor General VK Mohanti. “In the agricultural sector, funds under the national agricultural development programmes were delayed and not used effectively. For this reason, the Centre did not release funds to the state government. Although the department achieved its target for the Indira Awaas Yojana, irregularities have been found in the selection of beneficiaries and preparation of the waiting list. The state failed to install even the basic it infrastructure under the National e-Governance Plan.”
When queried about the irregularities, officials from nine departments did not respond at all, Mohanti claims.
“The state government only preaches zero tolerance towards corruption. It does not practise it,” says social worker Gautam Bandopadhyay. “Forget about the CAG report. Visit any part of the state. The condition of the roads and bridges are proof enough that all development is merely taking place on paper, not on the ground.”
When TEHELKA tried to contact the PWD officials, they refused to respond.
A week before the CAG report was released, state chief secretary Vivek Dhand called a meeting of PWD officials to analyse the work in progress for approved projects of roads and bridges under the Centre’s road construction project in Naxal-affected areas. Dhand also said that laying a better road network in the region will help control the Naxal problem.
As part of this strategy, the government has approved plans for 53 roads at a cost of Rs 2,897 crore. Work will soon begin on a national highway from Raipur to Konta via Jagdalpur. But the silence of the government, chief secretary and PWD officials has put a question mark on all such projects even before they have kicked off.
Translated from Tehelka Hindi by Naushin Rehman