Mahakal tunnel work hangs in balance

Ujjain : A row over restart of construction of the so-called tunnel (corridor) near Mahakaleshwar Temple has not only hampered the much-hyped development plans of the temple, but also exposed conflict of interests between the bureaucrats and the peoples’ representatives.

Construction work for the tunnel was started in March 2012 under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) and it was stated that the project was part of the Mahakal Chowk’s component. The CMM Infraprojects, Indore was awarded the work of Mahakal Chowk’s development for Rs 23.74 crore. The firm launched the construction activities on February 26, 2011; but the preparation of the tunnel was stopped on June 26, 2012 as the under-construction wall collapsed and thereby took the life of a labourer – Rekha, wife of Sunil. Since then, all the construction works and development activities have come to standstill. Moreover, a number of complaints were also made in the case and several enquiries were also ordered.

Meanwhile, the issue hot up again when the divisional commissioner organised a standup meeting at the site on September 1, 2014 in view of preparations for the Simhastha Fair-2016. Not only the officials, but the peoples’ representatives including the MP, MLA and Mayor also described the construction of the tunnel as necessary. However, despite passage of about a month, no permission has been granted. According to Mayor Rameshwar Akhand, construction of the so-called tunnel or corridor is illegal as no permission was taken from any competent authority. He informed that he has been continuously writing to the Principal Secretary, Urban Administration and Development and so also to the Commissioner, Ujjain Municipal Corporation with regard to various irregularities involved in the case, but to no avail.

On the other hand, Municipal Commissioner Avinash Lavania has presented a detailed report to the divisional commissioner to clarify that the work in question was launched after the permission of Mayor-in-Council (MiC) and it was in the scope of work of Mahakal Phase-1, Package-1 tender called, ‘Integrated Restoration, Conservation and Development of Mahakal and Gopal Virasat Kshetra’. Report also mentioned that the corridor was always a part of detailed project report (DPR) and it can be seen in the drawing and designs in DPR. Point of contention can be whether it was a part of floated tender or not. “It is an essential work which must be commenced immediately to finish before Simhastha-2016, some work incurring expenditure of Rs 45 lakh has already been done…It appears suitable to start the work,” the report said.

Factfile

Three divisional commissioner, three district collector and three municipal commissioner have been changed during past four years in Ujjain.

After the mishap on the construction site of the tunnel or corridor, Mahakal police had registered a case; but nobody knows that who was booked for the offence.

A magisterial enquiry was also set-up, which clearly found the negligence of engineer and supervisor of the contractor as well as executive engineer, assistant engineer and sub-engineer of the municipal corporation. The report also found the ongoing work being carried out flawing the norms and with sub-standard materials. SDM, Ujjain, RS Meena had also recommended to fix responsibility of all said persons in the death of labourer.

 The MiC had suspended executive engineer PS Kushwaha, assistant engineer Arun Jain and sub-engineer Piyush Bhargava; but they were reinstated by the then commissioner NS Parmar. Parmar also cleared payment of Rs 45 lakh in favour of the contractor and against the wish of the MiC.

The Lok Ayukta had also registered the case for preliminary investigation on July 7, 2014. Investigation officer Basant Shrivastava says, investigation is under progress and reports have been sought from the municipal corporation with regard to provision of the construction of tunnel or corridor in the DPR, its administrative sanction, etc.

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