NEW DELHI: Even as the Rafale fighter jet controversy rages on, it seems there is no infrastructure ready to house the jets once they arrive in India. The first fighter jet is slated to arrive by September. The hangar, approach route and the associated work for two new squadrons of the Rafale jets is being done at Ambala in Punjab and Hashimara in West Bengal. Military Engineering Service (MES) contractors have stopped work as the bill raised against infrastructure work has not been paid yet.
“The work was being done by MES contractors. Due to the nonpayment of bills, initially, it (work) was slow. But for six months it has stopped,” said President of the MES Builders Association of India (BAI) Praveen Mahana. The deadline for this project was March/April 2019, but only 40 per cent related work has been done. There was no reply to queries sent to the MoD spokesperson and the PRO Air Force for comments on the delay in infrastructure associated with Rafale.
The MES BAI, which is a registered body, has raised the issue of non-payment for various Armed Forces related projects across the country. The liability till December 2018 was Rs 1,600 crore. This has now risen to around Rs 2,000 crore.
Projects such as the Other Than Married Accommodation Housing (OTH), for the soldiers of Northern Command, is also facing delays. Karan Kapoor, Vice President, Northern Region said, “Work has either stopped or is on the verge of stopping due to non-payment.”
According to Kapoor, work in areas such as Leh, Kargil, Thois, Srinagar, Baramulla, Rajouri, Poonch, Doda and Udhampur have also been affected. Around Rs 40 crore is needed to clear this liability, he added.
“A delegation had met Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on October 26, 2018, after which Rs 250 crore was released. Now the liability (as per the association) is around Rs 2,000 crore,” said Shiv Kumar Gupta, treasurer of MES BAI.
The liabilities are across the country. The Chief Engineer, Air Force, Bengaluru needs around Rs 400 crore for the work to be done till March 2019. The other Air Force base related projects facing problems are Bamrauli in Allahabad, Bareilly, Sullur, Hyderabad and Tambaram. Payments have been done for the work at the air bases in Delhi, Chandigarh, Sirsa and Hyderabad. The MES Builders Association of India has been raising the matter with the Ministry of Defence and other ministers.