Friday, March 1, 2024
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Substandard Bitumen being used for Blacktopping of roads in JKUT:Balvinder
Loss of State Exchequer to the tune of more than 700 crores,Demands CBI Probe

Jammu, February 12 (Scoop News)-Renowned RTI activist S. Balvinder Singh has raised alarming concerns about the usage of substandard bitumen in road construction projects across Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory (JKUT). Singh highlighted that the disregard for quality control measures has led to significant financial losses, estimated to exceed 700 crores for the state exchequer.

Singh emphasized the issuance of a comprehensive quality control manual titled "Execution and Quality Control and DLP Enforcement manual dated 03.02.2022" by the then Principal Secretary works Sh. Shailendra Kumar. However, Singh lamented the lack of follow-up and enforcement of these guidelines by the Principal Secretary, resulting in widespread non-compliance by engineers and contracting agencies.

Key violations include the continued use of penetration grade bitumen, despite its ban according to manual guidelines. Singh pointed out that this inferior quality bitumen contributes to frequent deterioration of road surfaces, causing extensive damage and necessitating frequent repairs.

Balvinder further stated that It is very unfortunate that there is hardly any Hot Mix Plant in having Capacity of 100-120 TPH & even the most of the HMP’s (Drum type) are not of 60-90 TPH Capacity. But it is has been observed that the allotments have been made to the Contractors for Drum Capacity of HMP 100-120 TPH. Which is another violation of the guidelines & huge loss to the Government exchequer. As per guideline in the manual Annexure-I, Para No: 2.11(C) Contractor must facilitate dedicated staff consisting of one qualified Engineer, Two Technical assistants for ensuring Quality Control at Plant and must have well-equipped laboratory for testing facility at HMP site. In absence of these Contractor must not be allowed to proceed with the dispatch of bituminous mixes. But it has been observed that most of Engineers/Hot Mix Plant holders (HMP) are violating the above mention guidelines.

Singh stated that after submitting an RTI request to the PWD(R&B) Department Jammu and lodging a complaint with Principal Secretary Sh. Shailendra Kumar, Div Com Jammu, and DC Jammu, the Chief Engineer PMGSY hastily issued a corrigendum. However, it only urged to interpret Bitumen S-90 as VG Bitumen, yet failed once again to specify the Viscosity Grades of Bitumen to be used in different regions under their jurisdiction, in accordance with climatic conditions as prescribed in IS:73-2013 Code.

Despite clear instructions in the manual for all contractors and engineers to use VG grade Bitumen with legible and indelible markings including the manufacturer's name, month and year of manufacture, type of material, grade, and batch number, it has come to light that contractors, under the direction of engineers, are still using spray-painted markings, which is a clear violation of the manual.

Singh said though IS 73: 2013 code defines the grade of Viscosity like 10/20/30 & 40 to be used as per the climatic condition and temperature of the area i.e VG 20 is suggested for Jammu district but Engineers have allotted works with the specification of Bitumen As VG-10 instead of VG 30.

Singh highlighted that despite substantial taxpayer funds spent by PWD (R&B) Jammu on establishing well-equipped labs at Material Testing Lab (MTL) Nagrota and DIQC Nagrota, shocking revelations indicate a lack of bitumen quality testing, especially for Penetration value and Viscosity Grade. Moreover, it has emerged that no payments to contractors have been withheld based on MTL failure reports of bitumen material, due to the collusion between engineers and contractors. This has allowed contractors to obtain satisfactory reports from private labs, fostering the execution of substandard work driven by vested interests.

In light of these grave concerns, Singh urged the Honorable Lieutenant Governor of JKUT to initiate a thorough investigation by the Crime Branch/CBI to ensure accountability, uphold quality standards, and safeguard public funds.

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