The Morung Express

Nagaland: 4-lane works halted due to ‘non-payment of bills’

Machineries belonging to some sub-contractors parked idly since they halted work. (Morung Photo)

 

Non-payment of bills to some sub-contractors, labourers and fuel station by the main the contractor, among others, contributed to the stoppage of 4-lane works along NH-29, The Morung Express investigation reveals

 

Morung Express News
Dimapur | August 30

 

Even as various sections of the society had raised concern over the halting of 4-lane works from Dimapur to Kohima owing to alleged harassment of labourers, it has also come to light that many of the sub-contractors had stopped their works a few months back due to non-payment of bills by the ECI Engineering & Construction Company Ltd.

 

A fuel station had also reportedly stopped providing fuel to the ECI for non-payment of bill amounting to Rs 1, 55, 95, 601.

 

It may be mentioned that a senior staff of the firm reportedly told one of the local dailies on August 23 that works “has had to stop since the past ten days due to regular threats for money, thefts of several vehicles including excavators and finally, assault on its labourers who have since fled and abandoned the camp.”

Collapsed breast-wall due to improper construction. (Morung Photo)

Sub-standard boulders being used in the road construction. (Morung Photo)

 

The Morung Express on August 29 travelled to Kukidolong, Pherima, Tsiepama and Piphema to investigate. During the course of interactions with several stakeholders, it was learnt that at least four sub-contractors had halted works since the ECI did not pay the bills. It was also learnt that some of the labourers left the work sites owing to non-payment of wages.

 

The sub-contractors, who halted work included Sriram Rabidas, Choudhary, Balaji and James. Of these, Rabidas was the last to have continued working till August 23, the day the ECI talked to a local daily. The sub-contractor had to halt works from August 24 owing to non-payment of bills by ECI and fuel supply being stopped by the fuel station.
Machineries belonging to the sub-contractors were seen parked at various locations left idle since the works halted.

 

When visited, M/s M.K. Assertion Station, Tsiepama told The Morung Express that the gas station first stopped fuel supply to ECI on August 7, 2018 when the amount of pending bill reached Rs 1.30 crore but resumed the supply on August 16 upon request by ECI. However, it had to further stop fuel supply to the firm from August 22 when the bill amount reached Rs. 1, 55, 95, 601.

 

The Morung Express also visited the labour camp and found that the camp was located some 2 km away from Piphema Bazaar towards Kohima and not near Kukidolong. Moreover, the labour camp which had six hutments were occupied by at least seven labourers as on August 29. On August 27, this newspaper was informed by some local people in the area that a total of 12 labourers were at the camp. The seven labourers who were occupying the camp said they have so far not been threatened or coerced in any manner by anyone. They informed that four labourers who were lodged at the camp before them left the camp on August 29 morning.

 

The Morung Express also met Pelhouvilie, Kukidolong Village Council Chairman who informed that the Council had summoned ECI Business Development Coordinator, P.L. Rao on August 24 evening at the Council Hall and asked him to clarify the statement he gave to the local daily. During the meeting, Rao had said that the incident as reported and published in the newspaper did not take place in Kukidolong but in Pherima. Accordingly, he was asked to clarify the issue to the media.

 

Pelhouvilie said Rao maintained that the newspaper misquoted his statement. A document jointly signed by Rao, Kukidolong Village Council Chairman, another member of the Council and two GBs read that the statement to the local daily was “completely wrong.” “The Council members advised him (Rao) to rectify the faulty statement by publishing it in the local daily,” the document read. Pelhouvilie also said that a vehicle engaged in construction works was lost in Kukidolong some years back and not recently.

 

Another source questioned the plausibility of an excavator being stolen citing that excavators cannot cover long distance unless transported on trailers.

 

Rao issued a clarification, which was published on August 25, stating a “particular section of labourers” involved in protection work were “affected by the incident” slowing down the work. He further clarified that “all other works” were continuing with a supportive local population and government authorities.

 

This newspaper also visited the ECI base camp at Kukidolong for an audience with Rao but could not meet him. Other staff members were not willing to divulge anything stating that Rao was the right person to comment on the issue. Rao when contacted over phone on August 30 declined to comment on the issue.

 

The Morung Express also interacted with IRB personnel present at the base camp and was informed that the 9th NAP (IR) personnel totalling to 35 had reached the camp only on August 28 evening from Maharashtra and the earlier IRB personnel manning the camp had left.

 

Sub-standard materials
One source, who wished to remain anonymous, alleged that the firm was using sub-standard boulders. Pointing to a pile of such boulders on site, the source held that if the boulders were to be sent for laboratory testing it would be rejected. Substantiating his theory, he demonstrated how the boulders would crumble to pieces on impact if allowed to fall from a height of about 2 feet or more.

 

Collapse of breast-walls
The source also pointed to instances of breast-walls having collapsed at several locations since the spaces behind the walls were filled with soil and other wastage instead of a combination of soil and boulders. This leads to the walls bursting out from the middle even though it looks well constructed from the outside.

 

Sinking drains
At various locations, heavy vehicles were seen sunk into drains. This, the source said, was because only soil was used to fill the drain instead of a good combination of boulders and soil.

 

Non-maintenance of existing road
The existing road is hardly maintained since a large portion of the existing road stretch is covered with sludge, while vehicles has to ply on the newly cut road. Some portions where the existing road is being used are also slippery. Several vehicles were seen stuck in the slush. On August 29, four labourers from the existing road maintenance party were seen filling potholes with pebbles near Pherima.