Maruti Naik

Jul 31, 2019

5 min read

A highway runs through it

A small attempt at trying to unravel the Mumbai-Goa highway project

from a trip to Ratnagiri a long time ago

We did a road trip after many years this June; drove to Goa — used the Mumbai Pune express way (cutover from belgaum)and returned via good old NH17. So we pretty much experienced the highway widening project full blast. This project has been going on for quite some time — launched with typical bombast and followed up with the usual “work is going on at a frenetic pace” hyberbole.

My interest in the goings on was piqued by a comment made by Mr. Nitin Gadkari — parliament June 2019; he replied that all the work related to this project would be completed by next year. https://youtu.be/cpdxVvs818Y

Amazingly, the member of the opposition who posed the question did not have any further question and seemed to have accepted Mr. Gadkari’s answer at face value. Possibly a procedural thingy, must check Meghnad’s video on parliament for an answer. Maybe it was just enough for him to face his constituents back home and tell them “bagha, tumcha prashna mee saunsadet vicharla” and earn a few ‘patoli’ points.

Having just traversed that stretch, I could not figure out how he could pull this off. Anyway since these days, the government does not tell anything and the opposition will not ask anything, it falls upon ordinary citizens to take up cudgels to find the truth. So far as the media is concerned, most of them are happy publishing press handouts. There are very few sparks of integrity left, people who still investigate and complete stories. I hope at least some of them pick this one up too.

I decided to file an application under the RTI act 2005. Good simple online process; only quibble is why should banks charge convenience fee and lord knows what else for making fee payment of Rs 10/-

Got a response. Given the current mindset of the government towards RTI, nothing short of a miracle.

Important points— the NHAI is running the gig between Panvel to Indapur, target date June 20 ( in line with what Mr Gadkari said), 77% complete and for the rest I am barking up the wrong tree.

Note: I filed another RTI immediately this time asking the Maharashtra state PWD for the same details for the other stretches. Will keep you posted when I get a reply.

Now let’s come back to the cost — Rs. 942.69 crores mentioned in the reply.

A quick glance at the website of Supreme Infrastructure Limited (http://www.supremeinfra.com/BOT.html) — the chaps contracted to build this section (as part of a consortium) reveals the cost as Rs 594 crore.

Then I compared the two costs to a detailed reply provided in Parliament on 18th July 2017 (calling it the July 2017 document), the figure of Rs. 942.69 tallied

So could the cost have now got bloated from Rs 594 crores to Rs 942.69 crores. Possibly, these things happen, bade shehro me hota hai…Wait, it gets funnier. I checked to find out if there is any site which tracks status of such projects.

I found this link — https://www.pppinindia.gov.in/infrastructureindia/web/guest/view-project?p_p_id=viewproject_WAR_Projectportlet&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_count=1&_viewproject_WAR_Projectportlet_jspPage=%2Fhtml%2Fviewproject%2Fview.jsp&_viewproject_WAR_Projectportlet_ppp=Government+Infrastructure+Projects+%28PPP%29&_viewproject_WAR_Projectportlet_projectId=12837&_viewproject_WAR_Projectportlet_currURL=%2Finfrastructureindia%2Fweb%2Fguest%2Fprojects-list-by-status%3Fp_p_id%3Dprojectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet%26p_p_lifecycle%3D0%26p_p_state%3Dnormal%26p_p_mode%3Dview%26p_p_col_id%3Dcolumn-1%26p_p_col_count%3D1%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_jspPage%3D%252Fhtml%252Fprojectlistbystatus%252Fview.jsp%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_hdStatusId%3D%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_delta%3D20%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_keywords%3D%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_advancedSearch%3Dfalse%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_andOperator%3Dtrue%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_orderByCol%3DprojectName%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_orderByType%3Dasc%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_resetCur%3Dfalse%26_projectlistbystatus_WAR_Projectportlet_cur%3D44

Quite a mouthful, eh. This link revealed a few pages where the project cost is shown as 942.70 (rounding off, theek hai) and the revised cost is now shown as Rs 1206 crores.

So how does something go from 500 odd to 900 odd to 1200 odd crores so rapidly. Also why did i get a reply which had 900 odd crores as cost when there has been a revision.

Another point, the July 2017 document mentions the total cost as Rs 14776 crores.

Do listen to Mr Gadkari’s reply, he starts off by saying “This project is a 18000 crore project”. So just in space of a couple of years can we say that the cost has increased by Rs 3300 odd crores.

What in the heavens is going on.

Some news articles from the time when this project was announced:

This has a mention of the Rs 1206 crores — and a completion date of June 2017. This article came up in April 2016. So did the minister in charge not have the revised amount — why did he quote 942.69 crores in the July 17 document.

Now lets examine this article:

Here the Supreme Infra blokes are taking about a 1150 crore contract, their own website says Rs 594 crores as mentioned earlier.

I have decided to probe this as much as I can in all the spare time that I can muster.

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”. Must say that the rabbit hole that I find myself in, is looking to a never ending one.

P.S.

The next part will contain observations on the Maharashtra State PWD site — a site so ridiculously designed; I am sure it has not been hacked yet out of sheer pity and disdain. Idea is not to critique its security but the rather weird things that happen when you try looking for something there.