Sambalpur: Expansion of National Highway-55 connecting Sambalpur with Angul has been pushed into uncertainty as the construction firm ‘Gayatri’ is dilly-dallying on the work, a report said.
Keeping in view the rising traffic on the route during the last few years, it was decided to make the highway a four-lane one. However, the construction firm has stalled the expansion work for the last two years for the reasons best known to it.
NH-55 is also the main link between Sambalpur and Bhubaneswar and incomplete work is causing serious problems for the commuters.
The work began way back in 2015 with the completion deadline of 2018. However, the deadline went on changing several times and the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways finally ordered completion of the project by March 2020. Later, the deadline was again extended till March 2022 which has also expired.
According to sources, the firm is yet to earmark the areas for elephant corridors, and complete the service and by-pass roads on the highway.
Senior government officials, public representatives and ministers, who frequently travel on the highway, are well aware of the problem but have never demanded early completion of the expansion work.
The firm is citing various reasons like land acquisition problems, forest land sanction, local problems and financial bottlenecks that are hampering the expansion work.
The firm is accused of not clearing the bills of the sub-contractors for which the latter have withdrawn themselves from the projects.
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had directed Gayatri to complete the work on both sides of the highway and open it for traffic by March 2022. But, only 40 per cent of the work has been completed as of now.
Although the NHAI is extending timely financial assistance, the firm has failed to resume the reaming portion of the work.
Meanwhile, the owner of the land, where the firm has set up its camp office, has issued eviction notice to the firm directing it to shift its office elsewhere.
Several staffers have resigned due to alleged non-payment of salary while the sub-contractors are unwilling to work due to pending bills. They are staging agitations and locking up the office frequently.
Meanwhile, a firm official said the work will resume soon and will be completed within the extended deadline.
When contacted, project director of NHAI Nageswar Rao said the firm has been repeatedly warned to start the works while it has promised in writing to finish the works at an early date after it was issued a show-cause warning of legal action. He also said that action will be taken if the firm fails to meet the deadline.