By: Vijay Samyal
Fatehpur: While industry in Himachal Pradesh has been struggling with, in fact lamenting, the 70% quota condition for employing Himachalis imposed by the state government, local contractors appear more-than-enthusiastic to demand similar reservation for themselves in execution of government projects. In the process, skeletons have also started tumbling from the closets of departments involved in allocating projects as contractors are raising doubts about the fairness of tender process.
The Shahnaher project, probably the largest irrigation scheme in the state, is racking much muck over irregularities in allotment of tenders worth Rs 39 crore these days. While officials have been making conflicting statements, local contractors are alleging that they are being sidelined by officials so that heavy kickbacks could be demanded from contractors from other parts of the country. Alleging discrimination, they are now demanding 70% quota for localites.
The said tenders were cancelled after the matter was highlighted by media, but now the IPH department has again decided to invite tenders on working estimate rates, whereas sources claimed the tenders should be called on scheduled rates. The irregularities were reportedly unearthed following a complaint from contractor Sanjeev Parashar. The contractor association of Kangra has now decided to meet at Badkhar to discuss the matter. Contractor association president Vijay Kumar speaking on condition that this reporter would not name the official involved in it, said these three officials together with some politicians had been inserting unnecessary conditions in the tender process so that local contractors may not qualify for tendering to facilitate awarding the tenders to outside contractors who pay them hefty commissions. Parashar further alleged that the IPH department is yet to get clearance from the forest department and therefore it cannot call tenders. DFP OP Solanki said action would be taken against officials if any trees are cut or uprooted without permission. Vijay Kumar said they would ask the chief minister to stop the tender process and ensure that they get due share in the tenders.
Xen in the Shahnaher project, Mr Trivedi, said tenders are being called taking into consideration both working estimate and scheduled rates, while SE RK Jarial said tenders are being called only on the basis of scheduled rates. Surprisingly, project chief engineer MS Kanwar said he has no idea about the tenders, adding that tenders are always called on the basis of scheduled rates. Sources said the chief engineer is the final authority on finalising tenders, thus hinting that not all is well in the tender process.
Local MLA Sujan Singh Pathania in a way admitted that the project has been badly hit by irregularities and therefore proper probe would be carried out. On the other hand, IPH minister Ravinder Ravi has outrightly rejected the demand for 70% quota for Himachali contractors, stating that only deserving contractors would get work.