ROURKELA: Is the inordinate delay in construction of second Brahmani bridge on National Highway (NH) 143 and upgradation of SAIL’s Ispat General Hospital (IGH) into Super Specialty Hospital and Medical College (SSHMC) over the stated technical reasons genuine or someone powerful sabotaging it? Questions have been raised after both the projects have not seen any visible progress after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in April 2015.
Rourkela BJP MLA and former Union minister Dilip Ray had written to the Prime Minster on March 29 on these two projects stating that “there is strong perception among the people that someone powerful is trying to sabotage the entire situation.” In a statement on Saturday, Ray said forest clearance was given by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) for Brahmani bridge project on May 4 and hoped that everything goes in order, but added, “there is a strong perception that some unseen forces are bent on delaying the work.”
Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) Nitin Gadkari while laying the foundation stone for the bridge project on July 21, 2017 had stated that the work will commence in 15 days. Ray said MoRTH had put the onus on Odisha Government over issues of land acquisition and forest clearance. Ray also said he raised the issues in the State Assembly, adding that the State Government had issued all necessary clearances in January 2018, but the delay continued.
GKC Ltd has bagged the contract for NH 143 exapansion from Birmitrapur to Rourkela, including the six-lane bridge at a cost of `382 crore. It was feared that the the GKC might withdraw from the project over issues of cost escalation. Ray said he has talked to the NHAI and GKC officials and the latter has agreed to go ahead with the project, hoping that work would start from June.
An NHAI official said the NHAI headquarters would shortly issue the ‘Appointed Date’ for the project to the contract firm and countdown for 30-month completion period would start immediately. Incidentally, a railway over-bridge project on Brahmani river for Jharsuguda-Rourkela third line is underway at Rourkela.
The NHAI official clarified that unlike railway project under the NHAI guidelines, getting Stage 1 forest clearance is the main prerequisite for declaration of “Appointed Date’ for NH 143 expansion even though the bridge portion does not come under forest stretch. Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram said both the projects are moving in the right direction and would be completed on time. He refused to be dragged into controversy.