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Gunfire stalls pilot project tenders in red bastion

Gunshots shattered peace — and vehicle windscreens — in the "secure" confines of the SP's office in Palamau today, scuttling the tender process for pilot road projects in the rebel stronghold under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).


Garhwa SP Saket Kumar Singh, who holds additional charge of Palamau, said the firing was fallout of bidding rivalry. He said two miscreants — Jyoti Rajvanshi and Surya Prakash Dubey — were arrested after a 10km chase. Both owe allegiance to tender mafia boss Dablu Singh.


The rival groups of Dablu Singh and Vikas Dubey are active in Palamau and neighbouring Chatra district. Though Singh and Dubey are behind bars in Garhwa and Palamau jails, respectively, there gang members rule the roost. "Here in Palamau, crime revolves around tender management. There are goons who manage tenders for contractors against hefty amounts," the SP said.


Around 1pm today, engineers of the rural works department's Daltonganj division were selling bid papers in the presence of a magistrate and amid tight security when gunshots were heard. "The miscreants fired a couple of shots in the air, triggering chaos inside the SP's office. Though only window glasses of two parked vehicles cracked under the impact, everyone panicked and the tender process had to be shelved," said an assistant engineer entrusted with the task of selling the bid papers.


Not a single bid document was purchased for any of the four road packages (each may include for than one project) to be executed under the Centre-sponsored scheme, perceived as a tool to stem Left-wing-extremism in the twin districts of Palamau and Chatra. However, bid papers for another 11 packages that do not fall under the pilot project were sold in good quantity — 34 to be precise — before the melee.


Money involved in these rural road projects is huge. While the estimated cost of the 11 packages is Rs 44 crore, the four pilot packages are worth Rs 8 crore.


Fear of the gun is not unwarranted in Palamau. "We cannot think of selling tender papers in our offices. We take the help of police and administration. Selling documents in our offices mean facing the consequences because disgruntled contractors will hire the services of the tender mafia to scare away others," said rural works executive engineer Madan Mohan Jha.


While the incident triggered panic in the area in the afternoon, engineer-in-chief of state rural works department Jaiprakash was unaware of the development till 6 pm. "I am not aware of any such incident. Let me find out," he said when confronted with questions on safe execution of the pilot projects.


The tenders for the pilot road packages are to be opened and finalised on October 3 in Ranchi headquarters of the rural works department.


October 1, 2009 / Telegraph

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