14-08-201914-08-2019 16:16:17 IST
Updated On 14-08-2019 16:22:59 ISTUpdated On 14-08-20192019-08-14T10:46:17.374Z14-08-2019 2019-08-14T10:46:06.997Z - 2019-08-14T10:52:59.416Z - 14-08-2019
The Y S Jaganmohan Reddy government in Andhra Pradesh, which is determined to push ahead with a ‘controversial reverse-tendering proposal’ for the prestigious Polavaram project, has been facing a series of obstacles in this process. The latest one to raise the red flag over its plan to terminate contracts awarded by the previous government is the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA).
The PPA, appointed by the Centre to oversee the implementation of the centrally-funded irrigation project, expressed serious concerns over the state government’s decision to go for fresh tendering and also on how this ‘reversal’ is likely to cause further delays and escalation of project costs.
Speaking after a meeting of PPA, authority Chief Executive Officer R K Jain expressed these apprehensions, adding a fresh layer of intrigue to the already existing uncertainty and misgivings over the multi-purpose irrigation project. The central official categorically stated that the state government does not need their permission for re-tendering since it is completely in the purview of the state.
But the rider that followed rings the warning bells for the Jaganmohan Reddy government. “Our only concern is that the project should not get delayed and should not lead to financial losses. Any such financial burden should be borne by the state government only,” he said.
The Polavaram authority was quite candid in spelling out its intentions. More significantly, it seeks to blow a big hole in Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy’s claim that re-tendering would actually de-escalate the project cost.
Besides its concerns over the likely delay in works and the escalation of project costs, the PPA is also skeptical about maintaining continued quality of works and design coordinates once the contract changes hands. Quality and design are very key components in the construction of any large-scale project.
As of now, there are no visible answers for these apprehensions from the state government in the absence of any detailed plan on paper. The state government, on its part, has been claiming to resume the project works from November 1st this year.
But there is little optimism in this regard due to uncertainty that stems from the whole issue of re-tendering. Even the authorities are not sure of how much time this process will consume, especially with the proposed judicial commission coming into play. And will that leave enough time for the new contractor to put the men and machinery in place is another offshoot problem to deal with.
Given these and a swarm of other doubts, the 2021 deadline that the YSRCP government has set for itself to complete the project appears to be quite a stiff one. What makes the task even more complex is the prospect of the project cost escalating beyond the current projection of Rs 58,000 crores which is already considered as ‘heavily inflated’.
Carrying the legacy of a worrying fiscal health and an unprecedented debt burden from the previous regime, it would be hard to believe that the Jaganmohan Reddy government would be crossing this hurdle with ease.
As if these existing challenges were not enough, officials from Andhra Pradesh who took part in the Polavaram Project Authority meeting in Hyderabad have only made it tougher for themselves by failing to impress the central officials on a variety of questions.
Interestingly, Polavaram authority was not the first one to officially speak against the Polavaram contract cancellation.
Long before PPA chief R K Jain seemed to have exonerated the now-terminated Navayuga, Union Water Minister Gajendra Shekhawat gave enough indications of a clear shift in the way the Centre is now viewing Polavaram and its alleged corruption. He not only passed off Polavaram works as ‘clean’ but even expressed concerns of cost escalation in the wake of the contract cancellation.
The latest development suggests that the new dispensation in Andhra Pradesh and the Centre are not entirely on the same page on the way forward. Controversial decisions and contradictory positions coupled with seasonally fluctuating political statements are only casting a bigger shadow of doubt and ambiguity among the general public.
All this is leading to a perception that the YS Jaganmohan Reddy government may have been sidestepping the more serious ground realities and pushing the envelope a bit too hard in its bid to undo everything that the Chandrababu Naidu government had initiated. The chorus is getting bigger by the day that perhaps it’s high time for the YSRCP government to steer clear of political egos and review its policies pertaining to the Polavaram project.
There seems to be near-consensus on how the government can actually probe all the corrupt deals of the previous government without bringing all the works to a grinding halt. Having said, a whole lot depends on how Jagan and his think-tank views these concerns and how open they can be for a review.
-Durga Prasad Kanamaluru
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