While it is mandatory under Section 4 of the RTI Act to put work contracts with private agencies in the public domain, the National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI), has only selectively done so
On the late night of 2nd November four young ad professionals from Pune met a tragic death when their car plunged in the Neera Bridge, about 75kms from the city. Shockingly, while Reliance Infra has received the BSI standard certificate for the Pune-Bangalore Highway work, the ghastly accident reveals the nature of shoddy irresponsible work by this corporate which boasts of building world class road infrastructure. The near Rs2,000 crore Mumbai-Bangalore Highway project kicked off in 2011 and, despite the deadline being July 2012, only 40% of the work has been completed.
The website of Reliance Infra (www.rinfra.com) states: “Six laning of NH-4 between Pune and Satara of length 140km in the state of Maharashtra.The concession period of the project is 24 years. This project is along the main corridor connecting Mumbai and Pune to southern parts of Maharashtra and all Southern states of India. The project scope in addition to six laning includes construction of 53 major structures and 240km of service road all along the entire corridor…’’
(This is probably the reason why Pranav Lele's car plunged into the water. See the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) sign on the left which says `work in progress' - (there is no work going on there). The driver of the car may have swerved to the right after seeing it and then plunged headlong as there is not fence wall or crash barrier here. Police are conveniently blaming it on over-speeding and alleging drunken driving. Even then, the car would have hit the crash barrier if it had existed. Hence, NHAI and Reliance Infra are the ONLY ONES responsible)
The contractors of Reliance Infra and NHAI project director, Rajesh Kaundal, are responsible for criminal negligence.
This is because the Neera bridge, that runs parallel to the old bridge, has a 15 feet wide gap between the two bridges and do not have a safety crash barrier or a protective wall at the entry of the bridge. Besides, a `work in progress’ board on the left side, when no work is in progress, misguides the driver into swerving towards the right, particularly during night. In the case of the 2nd November accident, the car directly plunged into the river. Also, despite it being mandatory for Reliance Infra to have 24x7 security patrolling, there was no security guard on duty due to which no one allegedly saw the car fall. The bodies of these four young people were discovered five days later! This reveals the complete callousness in NHAI which is required to monitor the work of the private agency strictly.
(Another glimpse of the open gap which led to the fall of the car)
The NHAI website though has selectively implemented Section 4 of the RTI Act with a few contract agreements. The agreement between Reliance Infra and NHAI for the Mumbai-Bangalore Highway has not been uploaded. Sub sections 11, 13 and C of the Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act clearly states: “The budget allocated to each of its agency, indicating the particular of all plans, proposed expenditures and reports on disbursements made; particulars of recipients of concessions, permits or authorisations granted by it; (C) publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect the public.’’
(Biggest joke is that Reliance Infra has received the British based BSI certificate for its work on Pune-Bangalore Highway! Any civil engineering student will also not certify safety of this construction)
When crores of rupees have been spent and in return commuters get a highway without any service road in most part of the section between Pune and Satara; where there are no underpasses or over bridges for villagers to enter their village; where no safety signboards have been put up and maintenance is at a pathetic low, where there is no place for keeping an ambulance ready due to incomplete land acquisition, shouldn’t the tax-paying public have the right to know what has happened to the public money, so badly squandered? Shouldn’t it be available for all to see at the click of the button?
(Deadly pot-hole on the Neera Bridge. We saw vehicles receiving a hard jerk. This is the kind of shabby work by Reliance Infra, which has incidentally received ISO Certificate for such work. Isn't this unpardonable? Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch demands suspension of project director Rajesh Kaundal.)
The Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch has taken up the issue in order that the NHAI and the Reliance Infra do not get away with murder. The Manch is sending a letter today to Oscar Fernandes, union minister for road, transport and highways, demanding immediate suspension of NHAI project director Rajesh Kaundal; stopping toll collection until services are improved and blacklisting and terminating contract of Reliance Infra.
The safety manual of the NHAI and Citizen Charter, which have been uploaded on the website prove why the project director is directly responsible for the criminal negligence that led to the deaths of the four ad professionals.
Citizen Charter of NHAI which clearly states the following:
Safety manual of NHAI:
As per the safety manual of NHAI, uploaded on its website, the private contractor is required to put up proper signboards which are visible to the drivers’ eye. But, Reliance Infra has clearly failed in implementing it:
4.11.1 There shall be corresponding road markings with stop signs, give way signs, merging or diverging traffic signs, lane closed signs, road narrowing signs, slip roads/ diversion signs, compulsory keep left/right signs, or any other signs as per IRC-67 and/or as reviewed by IE.
4.11.2 Wherever Project Highway alignment is on a curve, there shall be an advance cautionary signs for sharp curves (depending whether it is on left or right) and chevron signs (rectangular in dimension with yellow background and black arrow) at the outer edge of the curve. The sign for the curve ahead particularly in mountainous and steep terrain shall always be accompanied with chevron signs at the outer edge of the curve and appropriate delineation.
4.11.4 All road signs shall be with retro-reflective sheeting of high intensity grade with encapsulated lens fixed over aluminum base plate as per clause 801 of MOSRTH specification.
Why is the NHAI project director turning a blind eye to the shoddy work of Reliance Infra and why is the latter putting up such a poor show? We need answers and correctives immediately from both.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
State Bank of India (SBI) has increased its base rate, or minimum lending rate, by 0.20%, to 10%. The base rate is the minimum rate below which banks are not permitted to lend. The upward revision in the base rate will push up the equated monthly instalments (EMIs) of home loan borrowers, further squeezing their disposable income at a time when households are struggling with high inflation.
One only hopes that the Investor Education & Protection Fund Authority