Contractors threaten to stop civic works. Is BBMP listening?

Submitted by alvin on Fri, 2016-04-15 15:39 Bengaluru: Expect an ongoing pothole filling work in your locality to stop abruptly. Or the work on relaying footpaths might just remain incomplete. For, the Palike contractors have decided to stop working on all the projects undertaken by the Palike as the civic body has not cleared their dues – a whopping Rs 1,928 crore pending since 2014! Besides, the Karnataka State Contractors’ Association has set a deadline of seven days to make the payment.Recently, when contractors protested, the Mayor promised to release Rs 100 crore towards their due. But when the contractors went to seek payment before Ugadi, the Commissioner was said to have ignored them claiming he was busy with collecting property tax.It has been over two years since the contractors have been waiting for their payment. Many of them have raised loans from banks and money lenders. But non-payment by the Palike has pushed them to the wall.It can be recalled here that in 2013, Girish, a contractor allegedly committed suicide for not being able to pay debts that he had taken from private money lenders for the Palike works. In 2015, Ravikumar, another BBMP contractor, also allegedly ended his life for similar reason. Both these incidents forced then Mayor B S Satyanarayana to announce Rs 20 lakh towards pending bill clearance. But soon, he paid only a meagre Rs two lakh just to pacify the upset contractors.It did not stop there. Another contractor Avanith (27) died three months ago in an accident. His brother Vineeth said “He had raised Rs 10 lakh loan from bank and also borrowed another twenty-five lakhs from friends to be invested civil works. He hoped that the BBMP would clear his dues and ran from pillar to post for three months. But no help came to his side.”When Vijay Bhaskar was the BBMP administrator, the contractors’ dues of Rs 658 crore was cleared using BBMP funds.Nataraj, H S, the association member said, “The officials have violated payment norms. They clear payment of bigger contractors – who take up major works – overnight and neglect those who take up ward level civic works.”Purshotham, another BBMP contractor said, Under the KMC Act payment norms, the BBMP has to clear the billsseniority wise. But, the Palike has thrown rules to the wind to favour some contractors. “Opposing this, we had appealed in the high court and the court had ordered the BBMP to follow the rules while clearing dues. But the Palike has ignored the court order now which amounts to contempt of court,” he said.Neither the Mayor nor the Commissioner has time to look into our demands, rued Rangadhaman, member of the association. Now, as a protest, the contractors are planning to stop the works, he added.When contacted Mayor BN Manjunath Reddy, he promised to clear the pending dues from the amount generated through property tax. “The monsoon will be here in another two months and ward works especially stormwater drains need to completed at the earliest. If the contractors go on strike, the city will suffer. We will not delay their payment,” he said.