SRINAGAR: The dredging of river Jhelum is likely to be delayed further as the Kolkata-based private firm tasked with the job has halted work, demanding a hike in the rates for dredging. The demand has been rejected by the flood control department.
The contract for the dredging work was allotted to ‘Reach Dredging Limited’ in February last year after the central government approved the state government’s Rs 400-crore proposal for the purpose. The firm was supposed to carry out dredging along the 25-km stretch of the river from Pantha Chowk to Wular Lake. The deadline for the firm was set for January 2016, which it missed, citing the civil uprising as the reason. The government granted a four-month extension to the firm for completion of the work.
With only less than two months remaining for the firm to complete the project, sources say that a dispute has arisen between the flood control department and the firm over the rates being paid. “After the flood control department started dredging of Anantnag and Pulwama stretches of the Jhelum river on its own, the private firm started seeking either a hike in rates or the contract for dredging more stretches of the river,” sources told Kashmir Reader.
When the department refused these demands, the firm stopped the dredging work in the last month.
“The firm was supposed to complete the dredging for the allotted stretch by January but it was not able to do more than 20 percent of the work. How is it possible for it to dredge out the remaining stretch in less than two months, that too when it has halted work? The dredging will surely be delayed further,” official sources said.
They said that there has been some verbal agreement between the government officials and the firm, on the basis of which the latter has sought hike in rates. “Even if the department terminates the contract of the firm after it misses the extended deadline, the firm will move court and it will cause more delay in the project,” official sources told Reader.
Chief engineer of the flood control department, Haneef Muhammad, downplayed the issue. “There is no such demand from the company,” he said of the hike in rates. “Even if it demands a rate hike, it does not matter. The firm has already missed one deadline and we have set April 15 as the last deadline for the completion of the dredging. If it again fails to comply with the deadline, we will allot the contract to some other company,” he said..
Asked why the firm had stopped its dredging work, he avoided the question and dropped the phone.