Corridor still in jeopardy

Guwahati/ Kokrajhar/Nagaon, Oct. 18: The fate of the East-West Corridor project in North Cachar Hills hangs in the balance after only one among the five firms is willing to work on the scheme despite the mass surrender of DHD (J) rebels on October 2.
The workers of the Gayatri-East Coast Insulation (Gayatri ECI), whose senior official was abducted from Kokrajhar two days ago, resumed work today.
“We have decided to continue work wearing black badges to protest against the kidnapping,” said S.N. Raju, deputy general manager of the firm.
Project manager P. Krishna Rao was supervising the project at Karigaon Joypur in Kokrajhar district when he was whisked away by five youths on Friday.
Senior officials from Delhi, including NHAI project director P.C. Das Boro, today visited the area to take stock of the situation.
The top brass of the National Highways Authority of India will meet Assam chief secretary P.C. Sharma on Friday to find a way out of the deadlock, highly placed sources in Dispur told The Telegraph.
They will hold a separate meeting with the firms that are reluctant to go ahead with the project on the NC Hills stretch.
Five firms — Hindustan Construction Company, Gammon India, Valecha Engineering, TBL and Continental Engineering Corporation — are engaged in the construction of the 135km stretch passing through NC Hills.
A source said the Hindustan Construction Company was working on the project but two of the four other firms were reluctant to resume, even at the risk of punishment.
“After the surrender of the DHD (J) rebels, we were sure that work on the project would be expedited but nothing like that is happening. Since surrender was on the cards, the move to terminate the reluctant firms was also shelved. The NHAI had requested a meeting with Dispur, as the firms are not even bothered about punitive measures. One fails to understand as to how one firm can continue to operate where others fear to tread. The picture will become clear only after the meeting,” a source said, adding that Dispur would not buy the contention of the firms on overall security, which has seen considerable improvement.
A source said discussions were on with the firms on three issues.
“Discussion will basically focus on the three-point memorandum that we submitted to the NHAI in January 2008. These include a review of rate, compensation for machinery and lost man hours and special security measures so that the employees can work in a safe and secure environment. We will resume work only if our demands are fulfilled. We will adopt a wait and watch policy,” he said.
Of the three demands, the maintenance of law and order is in Dispur’s hands.
Sources said the firms’ reluctance stems from their experience of dealing with “pressure/rebel groups” in the district.