Rashmi Rekha Das

The Odisha government will have to pay a total penalty of Rs 100 crore to Larsen Toubro Company for non-payment of dues over the years. A day after the State Cabinet approved the proposal to pay the amount from the Treasury on Friday, the Opposition on Saturday launched a scathing attack on the government. 

According to sources, the state government had roped in the agency on a contractual basis for different projects 19 years ago. However, the government failed to clear the dues of the company.  

Going by the sources Rs 20 crore previously due to the L&T was not paid, which has now gone up to Rs 100 crore after including interest. Meanwhile, Cabinet approved the proposal of paying the amount from the State Treasury which has become a matter of discussion in political circles.

Worth mentioning, L&T was given the contract for the construction of 166 km of road from Sambalpur to Rourkela. However, the Works department reportedly failed to pay Rs 20 crore to the company after the completion of the work. 

Later, L&T moved the court for non-payment of its dues. In 2004, the Odisha Arbitration Centre asked the government to pay the money to the company. But the government challenged the order in the High Court. The State government subsequently moved the Supreme Court after it lost the case in the High Court. The government filed a review petition in the apex court after the Supreme Court ordered in favour of the company. In the meantime, the Rs 20 crore due has gone up to Rs 120 crore (after including the interest). 

The Company then moved the court of Civil Judge (Commercial) as the government did not make the payment even after the court order. The court then ordered the seizure of the property of the government when it did not take any action even after repeated notices. The company, with the help of the police, later seized government property.

BJP leader Jaynarayan Mishra said, “The government should understand the fact that it is the custodian treasury. And it has no right to use public money for its own mistake. The government has to take action against unscrupulous elements responsible for raising the amount from Rs 20 crore to Rs 100 crore.”

Pradesh Congress Committee President Sarat Patnaik said, “The government will pay the penalty after collecting tax from the common mass. This should not happen. The government should collect the fine amount from the official responsible for the goof-up.”

 “Odisha government is looting people through its corrupt officials," said Pravat Das, president of All Odisha Contractual Workers' association said,