Corruption, favoritism shadow on UT administration in J&K

New Delhi/Srinagar, Sep 4 (IANS) The government of Jammu and Kashmir is likely to award contracts for Project Management Consultancy (PMC) to only three Central Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) at a very high cost and without any competitive bidding.
Sources told IANS that the decision to award contracts to the three central PSUs was taken by the Committee of Secretaries (COS) chaired by chief secretary of the union territory, BVR Subramanium. The chief secretary, initially, was in favor of giving all the contracts to only one PSU nominated by him, sources said.
However his proposal met with stiff resistance from other secretaries. Eventually, after the deliberations, the COS agreed in principle to award contracts to three PSUs, proposed by the chief secretary. Sources added that the entire process of nomination was initially pushed by a senior officer, who has now been transferred from the union territory.
As per the decision of the chief secretary, contracts will be awarded to NBCC, NPCC and NHIDCL for a management fees of 6.5 per cent of the project cost.
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Jal Shakti mission, an ambitious program to supply water to all the households by pipes and taps is being rolled out across country. J&K, a water-surplus state, will be receiving at least Rs 10,000 crore, in the first phase. During the execution of the program, Rs. 650 crore will be paid to the three nominated agencies.
Interestingly, the Prime Minister has been discouraging awarding of either contracts, or PMC on nomination basis, by any central ministry. Most of the central ministries call for competitive bidding, at times, within PSUs to avoid any over excessive contract outgo paid in the process of nomination.
In J&K, former LG G C Murmu, had tasked the J&K irrigation department to achieve the target of providing water to at least two major districts, before August, 15 2020. The target was achieved by the J&K administration according to the schedule. Srinagar and Ganderbal became first two districts to supply water by taps after meticulous execution by engineers of local administration. Why the J&K chief secretary insisted on the nomination process was a question that he could not satisfactorily answer to the committee, sources said.
A very senior IAS officer, according to sources, objected to the nomination process during the COS meeting. He emphatically asked that his objections be recorded when asked by the chief secretary BVR Subramanium, to toe his line. Sources said the CS reminded the officer how he compelled the central government and the Prime Minister in shunting out LG GC Murmu out of J&K.
Another IAS officer asked to note down the past track record of the NBCC in J&K. According to sources, he wanted to record along with his dissent, that NBCC was entrusted with implementation of a Rs 50 crore sewerage project for the capital cities of Jammu and Srinagar. However, the project is still incomplete after 10 years. The residents of both the cities have been crying foul and raising their voice repeatedly. However, the bureaucrat was silenced by a phone call from the senior officer transferred from the state, sources said.
At the COS meeting, another senior officer pointed out that the Bakshi stadium project awarded to the NPCC had also remained incomplete. He also highlighted that the NPCC had not risen to its name when it was given border fencing projects on the nomination basis. Sources said that NHIDCL has been implementing few projects in road sector. Some members pointed out that of late NHIDCL has not been awarded any new projects in J&K.
Sources said another senior bureaucrat pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project, SWAIN (State Wide Area Network) has been delayed because of the insistence that a certain PSU be favored. The delay in SWAIN, sources said, is because the chief secretary has allegedly been trying to favor relatives of some officers who are very close to him.
It was after former LG Murmu’s intervention and the award of contract through GEM, a Central Government portal that SWAIN is likely to be rolled out, the senior bureaucrat said in the meeting. However his voice too was muzzled, sources said.
World Bank and ADB funded projects too have been ailing in J&K for years. Bretton Woods agencies have also been reluctant to offer resources in view of pathetic implementation of the projects by the J&K administration.
Sources added a CBI preliminary inquiry has been going on in an award of power project recently during the tenure of the current chief secretary. The power project which was awarded through manual tender process, is under a cloud due to written dissent by a couple of officers. There are several other corruption cases in J&K, sources said. Though IANS reached out to the chief secretary several times, he was not available for comment.

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