Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

As many as 17 companies from outside Odisha were reportedly given contracts for projects to the tune of Rs 35,000 crore under the Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Departments of the Odisha government during the tenure of the BJD. 

It is evident from the fact that non-Odia contractors were ruling the roost during the period.

Apprehensions have also been raised that there has been huge corruption and kickbacks in the tender process. In response, the newly-formed BJP government has decided to launch a probe into the tender process of the drinking water projects to find out the mastermind behind the kickbacks. 

Meanwhile, Odisha Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water Minister Rabi Narayan Naik said that a probe into the projects and the tender process will be launched and appropriate actions will be taken against the erring persons if any irregularities are found. Moreover, the concerned department has also been directed to start the process in this regard.

“Some non-Odia contractors outside the State were working on the projects. If any irregularities are found, appropriate action will be taken,” said Naik.

Moreover, Utkal Contractor Association President, Prabhat Das has alleged that kickbacks have been paid during the tender process of the mega projects and it needs to be traced.

“They brought contractors from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and gave work to them. They mixed around 10 works together and made those mega projects. Some conditions were set to make Odia contractors ineligible,” said Das.

Allegations of residents across Odisha

Most importantly, residents of many areas in the State have brought several allegations regarding the incomplete projects in their areas. While pipes have been laid, the water supply is not there in some areas. In some other areas, muddy water is coming from the supply pipes.

As per the allegation by residents, the earlier government was not paying any attention towards their complaints. Take the case of the Marshaghai block in Kendrapara district. L&T company was given the contract of the whole district worth around Rs 1000 crore. Though pipes have been laid, water is allegedly not coming out from the taps in the area. 

“We are not getting water through taps. As a result, we are forced to use contaminated water from other sources,” rued Ranjita Nayak, a resident in Kendrapara.

According to the departmental engineer, it will take more time for the project to be fully operational.

“There are many reasons for the delay in the completion of the projects in the area. It is a waterlogging-prone area and the soil bearing capacity here is very poor. As a result, we have to undertake various tests before providing supply water which is causing delay,” said Basant Kumar Nayak, Executive Engineer, Kendrapara.

Similar is the case in Jagatsinghpur district. Residents of Balikuda and Ersama blocks have also alleged that they are not regularly getting water from pipes. 

“We had requested the higher authorities to provide us supply water. Though we were assured that it would be completed within two days, nothing has been done yet,” said Bhabani Das, a resident of Ersama.

Though the projects are yet to be completed, it is a matter of surprise that most of the contractor companies have received 90 per cent payment.

No comment could be obtained from the L& T authorities in this regard.

Notably, the non-Odia contractor matter emerged as a big issue during the 2024 General Elections in Odisha. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had targeted the Odisha government for not being able to utilize the funds allocated by the Centre under the Jal Jeevan Mission. They had also slammed the State government for their favouritism towards the non-Odia contractors as one of the main reasons behind it. Now, the next course of action of the newly-formed BJP government remains to be seen in this regard.

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