When the Odisha government is spending hundreds of crores of rupees just to transport the Chief Minister’s representative to various sites in the state for the inauguration and review of Projects, eyebrows are being raised as to why there is complete silence on the inauguration of Multipurpose halls (MPHs).
Knowledgeable sources believe that 89 MPHs were announced about a year ago, and were supposed to be completed by now. But no one is even talking about their inauguration and opening them for public use.
Interestingly, the MPH projects were said to be the brainchild of the 5T secretary and the engineer in chief (EIC) of the works department was personally looking after the projects because of their importance. It is said that the buildings were to be completed by January 2023 but even after so many months, they are not being offered for the use of the public because the quality of construction is alleged to be poor and the buildings. The buildings are allegedly crumbling and an investment of Rs 693 crore will likely go down the drain. That is said to be the reason why the inauguration is getting delayed.
People in the know allege that the responsibility of the weak structures rests right on the table of the EIC because he is directly involved in the specification of the non-scheduled items and finalizing the suppliers of the items. The delay is allegedly because efforts are on to pass off the low-quality items as of requisite quality and corner benefits from the beneficiaries of this dubious move. No one seems to be worried about the chances of the risk to youth of getting injured when they use those substandard equipment and facilities. It appears to be a scam of gigantic proportions and it is also rumoured that the state vigilance department has already started looking into it.
The allegations, if true, are not surprising because they are supported by another similar dubious act of the same EIC. Recently tenders for more than 1,000 road projects worth more than Rs 10,000 crores have been floated for roads all over the state. Sources under conditions of anonymity have pointed out that such projects are always carried out after a proper survey is done and the Detailed Project Report (DPR) is prepared based on those surveys, which are approved before the floating of tenders.
But in the present cases, DPRs have not been prepared for many projects and allegations that even the survey has not been done. It is alleged that the move is aimed at supporting certain chosen contractors and extracting benefits prior to the election in 2024. Fingers are being pointed out at the EIC for this as he is also holding the charge of chief engineer, and roads and is responsible for the tenders.
In a shocking revelation, the Engineer-in-Chief is currently under scrutiny for alleged financial mismanagement and hampering the progress of critical government initiatives. The accusations suggest that the mismanagement of funds has resulted in a substantial burden on the state exchequer, affecting the timely completion of key projects.
Interestingly, the posts of four chief engineers are still vacant in the department in spite of the availability of officers and there is no move to fill them up in an election year when the focus is on completion of the projects. These points to the chances of the EIC taking such steps under the instructions of certain higher-ups for reasons best known to them but not very difficult to guess. Details of the proximity of the
EIC to the corridors of power are also floating around. It may be recollected that these kinds of steps had been taken by people close to power earlier too and the EIC of that time had been rewarded with political blessings for his acts of helping the political masters.