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War over Rs 168-crore contract stalls road repairs on Mumbai's eastern suburbs

The fierce rains have ensured that even the roads that were fortunate enough to receive the attention of the BMC this year are now ridden with potholes, which lie gaping like open sores. It comes as little surprise then that the roads on the city’s eastern suburbs are the most grievously scarred in the wake of the deluge -- workers haven’t touched them for over a year now.

While labourers deployed by BMC’s contractors were seen dotting the roads in the western and central suburbs prior to the monsoons this year, stretches on the eastern suburbs lay untended, untouched by healing hands -- all thanks to litigation between two competing contractors for a Rs 168-crore deal, and the apathy of the civic body in its wake.


Languishing in neglect: Over a year, the roads on the eastern suburbs lay untended and untouched due to the litigation ensued between two competing contractors. file pic

In October last year, two companies bid for a contract for asphalting of roads on the eastern suburbs -- Mahavir Roads and Infrastructure, and J Kumar Infraprojects. The Rs 168-crore contract was awarded to the latter company, which made the lower bid. In March this year, Mahavir Roads moved Bombay High Court over the allotment of the contract, alleging that J Kumar Infraprojects had submitted fake experience certificates to the BMC to bag the contract. After proceedings that lasted for a month, the High Court ordered that the contract to J Kumar be cancelled.

In the tussle that ensued between the two contractors, the roads were the biggest losers.

The BMC administration is yet to issue a work order to Mahavir Roads, which was the only other company to make a bid for the contract. With the re-tendering proposal pending with the municipal commissioner, the matter is still in limbo. Meanwhile, the roads languish in neglect.

Jitendra Jain, managing director of Mahavir Roads and Infrastructure, said, “We have not been awarded the contracts for the eastern suburbs yet. We know that the company that had bagged the contract had done it by submitting fake documents. So we went to court and the judgment was passed in our favour. Some officials at BMC did this because they wanted to award the contract to another company, since only two of us had bid.”

Director Kamal Gupta of J Kumar Infraprojects denied the company’s involvement in the fiasco, saying, “There is no such tiff between J Kumar Infraprojects and Mahavir Roads and Infrastructure. The tiff is between Mahavir Roads and the BMC, since the BMC didn’t give them the project. We had quoted a price to the BMC, but we did not receive a reply. The roads are still the same because it is the rainy season and hardly anything can be done now.”

A senior civic official, said, “The contract will be awarded as per the tender committee’s decision and if the committee feels there is a need to re-invite tenders we will do so, or else give the deal to Mahavir Roads and Infrastructure.”

Voices
We are tired of following this issue with the administration and there is no response at all from them. They should either give the contract to the valid contractor or start a re-tendering process.
-- Rahul Shewale, BMC’s standing committee chairman

The roads are in such bad condition that it has become difficult for us to face the residents, who expect us to give them good roads. The administration’s apathy is responsible for this. The court results are out, so they should at least award the contracts.
-- Rais Shaikh, group leader of Samajwadi Party

There were so many potholes and bad patches in my ward even before the monsoon, and the situation has become worse in the rains. Why should the citizens suffer because of the contractors and the administration?
-- Dilip Lande, group leader of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena

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