Tinsukia: The Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ashok Singhal, on Friday, directed the Deputy Commissioner of Tinsukia to conduct an investigation and take appropriate action regarding the construction of a culvert in the centre of Tinsukia town.
Within 48 hours of a newly constructed culvert collapsing as an empty truck crossed it, leaving the truck stranded at the axis of Law College Road and AT Road, which is part of National Highway 37 that passes through Tinsukia town, the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs ordered the Deputy Commissioner of Tinsukia to investigate and take appropriate action.
Construction of the culvert began in late November 2022 and was inaugurated by Assam’s Minister for Labour and Welfare Department, Sanjoy Kishan, on February 6, 2023, after closing the stretch to vehicular traffic for approximately three months.
The incident has caused an uproar among residents who are now concerned about the quality of construction work carried out by the Tinsukia Municipal Board. This has prompted senior administration officials to rush to the site to assess the situation.
Locals have expressed their dissatisfaction with the poor quality of work done by the contractor. “The concrete has been peeling off for the past few days, and when a portion of the culvert collapsed today, we saw that there was hardly any cement used. This indicates deep-rooted corruption,” alleged one local resident.
ADC (ULB) Sarfaraz Haque, the official who visited the site, squarely put the blame on the Tinsukia Municipal Board, stating, “People are not satisfied. It is a complete waste of government funds. TMB has repeated this kind of work for the second time.”
Based on initial observations, it seems that the Assistant Engineer of TMB, Jyoti Prasad Das, did not carry out the mandatory inspection during the construction phase. “When I asked him at the site whether he had recorded the MB, the answer was negative,” said Haque.
MB stands for “measuring book,” which is used to raise bills and make payments based on the construction work done. According to the procedure, it is mandatory to record every detail in the measuring book (MB) during various stages of construction, such as the laying of rods, preparation of frames, dhallai, etc.
ADC (ULB) Sarfaraz Haque emphasized the importance of the measuring book (MB) and stated that had the culvert not collapsed, it would not have been known that rods of different diameters were used. “Technically, it is necessary to record details in the MB at every stage during the construction to ensure that materials are used as per the specification in the approved estimate. The assistant engineer, technical branch staff, and contractor are using this as an escape route, leaving the government and citizens to suffer due to poor quality work.”
ADC Haque stated that they are considering the option of filing a police complaint. “The report is expected to come in a day or two, and action will be taken against the contractor based on the findings,” he assured.
In the video shot during Haque’s visit, he can be heard, in an angry tone, having a conversation with the assistant engineer of TMB Jyoti Prasad Das. At one point he says moi apunak hey tu dhora pichot hey tu korise (I had detected a similar act earlier, now it is being repeated) and went on saying apunalokor officot bohi bohi bill khon bonabo niki (will you all sit at the office and prepare bills).
When asked about the responsibility for the incident, Haque responded that while it is the job of the Tinsukia Municipal Board to oversee the construction process, including funding, contracting, and technical staff appointments, the administration will take action against officials who are found to have not performed their duties properly and honestly. EastMojo had asked whether responsibility will be assigned and action will be taken against erring officials.
The lone Aam Aadmi Party ward commissioner from Ward Number 11, Dhiraj Singh, alleged deep corruption in the tender process, stating that open tendering is merely a facade. He claimed that a syndicate is involved and that a few selected individuals are receiving all of the work under various firm names and owners.
Singh said, in the present incident it is evident and for everyone to see how the contract used inferior quality goods which were not as per the specification of the approved estimate. “Were the technical branch officials and staff sleeping all the while or hand-in-gloves with the contractor? Who would have been responsible had the truck turned turtle killing nearby persons?” Singh questioned, adding, “Finally, it’s the local citizens who will suffer as the AT road-Law College road was previously closed for movement of vehicles for around two months and will have to be again closed.”
Singh said, “I demand a high-level inquiry whereby what all went wrong, wrongdoings of the contractor and the officials who are involved need to be exposed before the citizens.”
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“It is more important that action is taken on the officials who looked the other way when the contractor was using sub-standard material and playing with the lives of commuters and denizens as the role of the officials is much bigger in supervising various projects and construction under TMB in comparison to the contractor, else corruption will continue unabated,” added Singh.
Responding to a tweet by EastMojo correspondent, Singhal Tweeted: @DCTinsukia , Pl do enquiry and take proper action
Posting a couple of news reports, the EastMojo correspondent tweeted that at a time when our Hon’ble CM @himantabiswa is working day-night 2 take #Assam 2 new heights, in #Tinsukia a culvert breaks in 20 days of opening. Isn’t it pointing to corruption? How did poor quality escape the eyes of officials during the inspection? “Will the corrupt people took to the task or things will be put under the carpet in the name of enquiry?” Rishu Kalantri asked in one of its tweets.
According to sources, one Mega Enterprises had bagged the contract worth around rupees 4.37 lacs. Now, what remains to be seen is whether the action, as assured, will happen at all, and if yes, how swiftly and on whom.
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