A Aalim Ahmad
SRINAGAR: Former Minister and senior National Conference (NC) legislator Mian Altaf Ahmad entered into a verbal dual with Finance Minister, Haseeb Drabu, over engagement of local workforce in the construction of Z-morh tunnel in Kangan on the Srinagar-Leh highway.
Altaf had brought a calling attention notice to highlight that despite agreement with the local population on engagement of skilled and unskilled workforce in the tunnel work, a less percentage of locals have been engaged by the agency that executes work on the multi-crore project. He alleged the locals have been discriminated against.
Drabu vehemently denied the charge. He said that ideally z-morh type projects should have been taken up by local contractors but no such contractor has come forward compelling the government to award the tender to non-locals.
He said such mega-projects cannot be taken at the scale of a constituency. “We have to change our mindset about such projects. These are state projects,” he said.
This infuriated Ahmad who questioned Drabu’s logic to sideline the local workforce. “How can you teach me? I have been minister for four terms. I am more powerful than you,” he said.
“Kya bakwas kar raha hai (what rubbish is he saying),” Drabu responded. The comment shook many NC and Congress legislators who stood up in protest.
“This sentence must be expunged from the record,” Altaf Kaloo, an NC legislator said. However, Mian Altaf insisted that the sentence must remain a part of assembly records to prove “what class this minister belonged”.
Social welfare minister Sajjad Lone intervened and pleaded with the opposition members to allow Drabu to explain his viewpoint. The minister had been forced by the ruckus to settle in his seat.
Congress Legislative party leader Nawang Rigzin Jora justified reacting angrily to Drabu’s comments. “This is a justified and legitimate way of putting the government on notice,” he said.
The opposition members later walked out of the house in protest. Earlier, in his written reply, Drabu informed the House that around 300 workers of the State are engaged in construction work of Z-morh tunnel project. The minister said that the work on Z-morh tunnel Project Commenced on 11 November 2015. The executing agency of the project is Apco Titan Joint Venture which further engaged IL&FS Transportation Network Limited for executing the said work, he added.
However, on 06 December 2015 the workers went on strike for five days due to their merger in the pay roll of M/S Versed Facilities Management Private Limited which is a sister concern of the said company. He said that the issue was sorted out amicably and the work on the project at present is going on smoothly.
The Minister said that high-skilled, skilled, semi-skilled, un-skilled and technocrats from the State are engaged in the project. Out of 300 workers, 151 workers are of J&K State engaged through various sub-contractors include 72 workers engaged belong from Kangan constituency and 79 from other districts of the state.