Sunday, April 14, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Punjab, NBCC lock horns 
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
At least 28 polytechnics, most of them with new buildings, are “out of bounds” to students as the Punjab Government and the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) have been locked in a “Titanic battle” over the quality of construction for the past five years.

The controversy took a new turn recently when the Directorate of Technical Education rejected the findings of its own inquiry committee against the NBCC and decided to seek the opinion of the Punjab PWD before arriving at a final decision.

The departmental inquiry committee headed by a Principal had expressed “serious concerns” over the quality of work executed by the NBCC and recommended a huge recovery from the corporation.

As a sequel to this battle, not only the investment made by the Punjab Government for the construction of new polytechnics (most of them for girls) or the renovation of the existing ones under a World Bank project is going waste, but it is also denying an opportunity to prospective candidates to be suitably trained and employed.

While the NBCC has been demanding a clearance of dues worth Rs 1.27 crore before it can hand over the possession of these buildings to the Department of Technical Education, the Punjab Government has sought a refund of Rs 5.26 crore from the corporation maintaining that the “quality of construction is poor” and buildings have to be “redone” before these can be put to use.

It all started in 1995-96 when the Punjab Government drew an ambitious project of taking technical education and industrial training to rural and remote areas of the state.

A contract was given to the NBCC for the construction of several new polytechnics besides upgrading and renovating some of the existing ones. The original estimate was Rs 14.39 crore which was later revised to Rs 16.19 crore.

Of the total bills of Rs 16.54 crore raised by the NBCC, the government initially released a payment of Rs 14.92 crore. Subsequently, even after differences over quality of construction had surfaced, the Department of Technical Education, in defiance of the wishes of the then Technical Education Minister, released another instalment of Rs 1.72 crore to the NBCC on the plea that any delay in the release of the payment would stop the release of funds by the World Bank for the project.

The NBCC says the Department of Technical Education has still to pay Rs 1.27 crore.

On the other hand, not satisfied with the quality of work, the Directorate of Technical Education, constituted an inquiry committee headed by a Principal of a polytechnic at Amritsar. Two senior lecturers from Hoshiarpur and an architect stationed in Chandigarh were the other members. The committee expressed “unhappiness” over the quality of work and recommended that a sum of Rs 5.26 crore be recovered from the NBCC as “payment has been made in excess of the works completed by the corporation”.

Whatever be the reasons, the prospective students are suffering and huge public funds, invested in the project, are lying unused at a time when everyone is talking about taking technical education to rural and remote areas for increasing employability of the rural youth. (Concluded)Back

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