Building and road division of the PWD department officials, contractors and representatives should be made accountable for their involvement in plundering public money and delay in completing the Rs20m project
Naveed Toshee & Qurban Rahim
Chipursan road issue has once again popped up in media and not for good reason. A photo, showing a portion of the road collapsed, is the perfect example of the indifference, criminal negligence, corruption and inefficiency of the officials and the bureaucracy-controlled governance system in Gilgit-Baltistan that has rotten to the core.
The road was repaired recently at a cost of Rs4 million in a haphazard way after a campaign under the slogan of ‘no road no vote’ was launched by the people and youth of Chipursan before elections to highlight the longstanding issue.
A grand action committee was formed that prepared a charter of demands (CoD) and presented to all political parties and media. The salient points of the CoD included widening and metalling of the 72km road from Sost to Ziarat; provision of jobs to local people and removal of non-locals.
There are only nine locals working as road maintenance labourers on the 35 sanctioned posts while 26 are non-locals getting salaries from the road budget while sitting in their respective home towns out of Hunza District.
The CoD also called for replacing all wooden bridges with RCC bridges.
It is worth mentioning here that out of 13 bridges, nine were constructed by the local community while the budget allocated for these bridges have gone to the pockets of the contractors and B&R department officials.
They also demanded a probe against the relevant department officials, the contractors, and representatives for their alleged involvement in kickbacks, corruption, negligence and delays in the execution of the project including the 2km Yarz Rech realignment project.
The issue gathered heat on social media forcing almost all candidates except the PTI candidate to rush to the valley and express solidarity with the protesters.
The B&R department in order to diffuse the public campaign and media pressure, resumed the work and promised to complete it by second week of December. During the construction of the bridge, a boulder fell and damaged the side wall of the bridge due to a faulty design by the engineers and poor quality of work by the contractor.
On December 15, Hunza’s Deputy Commissioner Fiaz Ahmed, Gojal Sub-Division’s Assistant Commissioner Zulqarnain Khan and heads of other line departments were scheduled to inaugurate the project. But before their arrival at the site, the retaining wall collapsed exposing the poor construction work by the contractor and the supervisor. Social activists took to social media to slam the officials and the contractor.
The treacherous road saga
The 70km road that traverses from Ziarat on the Wakhan border linking the oldest settlement of the Gojal with KKH, was built in 1982 for strategic purposes as well as to facilitate the local community for better travel linkage. The road remains blocked frequently in winter season due to heavy snowfall and in summers due to floods caused by melting glaciers.
The upgradation, widening and metaling of Chipursan road was approved in 2006 with an estimated cost of Rs20 million. The contract of the work was awarded to contractors. An additional budget of Rs15m was allocated for realignment and construction of 2km road from Yarz Rech.
As per 2015-16 ADP, Rs19 million was spent on the widening and metalling of the road including 13 bridges. But the department has failed to complete the project in 15 years.
Every year a substantial amount is reflected in ADP for the road’s maintenance. But the funds go into the pockets. The contracts had been awarded on a political basis. Three contractors have been blacklisted so far for their alleged corruption and poor quality of work.
The community built nine bridges but the allocated amount went to the pockets of the officials and the contractor.
According to the government official 85% of the allocated amount has been spent on the project but that does not reflect in terms of works.
The treacherous road has claimed 15 lives due to negligence of the relevant department and the contractor.
The National Accountability Bureau must initiate inquiry against all those who were directly or indirectly involved in the procurement of material, award of contract, and site supervision, especially the executive engineer.
The most disturbing aspect of the issue is that instead of making the politicians, contractors and the officials accountable for their corruption, criminal negligence and making the lives of the 5,000 people miserable, people give respect and protocol to the bureaucracy, tainted contractors.
This tradition of flattering and darbari culture must be stopped and such elements should be taken to task for their failure in fulfilling their responsibilities.