Bangladesh Railway (BR) authority alleged that Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) use substandard railway sleepers on the 65-kilometer Khulna-Mongla broad-gauge railway project. An agreement was signed between Bangladesh Railway and IRCON International Limited in 2010.
According to BR sources, despite allegations of anomaly, the Indian company does not remove the sleepers from the rail tracks and trying to sell those to be used in other projects.
The Khulna-Mongla Railway Construction Project, which is believed to benefit both India and Bangladesh in transporting goods to and from Mongla port, is set to be costlier as most of the work is yet to be completed. The railway project along with Rupsha Railway Bridge is unlikely to meet the February, 2020 deadline following the allegation, said railway source.
The project was initiated in April 2013 by Bangladesh Railway with funding from India under Line of Credit (LoC) to improve road communication between Bangladesh and neighbouring countries, and was scheduled to be completed by 2018. In the second revision, the deadline has been extended to 2020. Bangladesh is also financing part of the cost.
About 1,35,771 sleepers are set to be used in the in the construction work. But the railway authority found some of the sleepers with poor quality and asked the Indian company to remove them from the project site. But, IRCON International is not paying heed to the allegation, BR officials said.
Indian Railway Construction Company has been asked to remove defective railway sleepers from the construction project site and to bear all the expenses in this regard, according to a recent report of Bangladesh Railway.
If needed the substandard sleepers can be marked with red colour and stocked those seperately, said the report.
Ramjan Ali, project director of the Khulna-Mongla Railway Construction Project, told The Business Standard that IRCON has brought 4800 sleepers in several lots. BR authority have found some of the sleepers with poor quality after testing the standard of the items. All the sleepers will be tested and only standard quality sleepers will be used in the construction work.
He said that when Bangladesh railway put pressure on the Indian company to remove the sleepers from the project site they then sought intervention from Indian High Commission.
"If those sleepers are used the railway line will be damaged in a short time and the risk of accident will be increased", the project director said.
Officials of IRCON International did not respond as text message through email was sent to them.
Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam, former adviser for Finance and Planning to the caretaker government, said Bangladesh does not have control in bringing products through bilateral agreement. The quality of the product should be ensured if the railway authority can examine the products in India before arrival of those in Bangladesh.
Harun-or-Rashid, general manager (West) of Bangladesh Railway, told The Business Standard that Bangladesh has taken decision to install pre-stressed concrete sleeper in all railway lines as the country is on the way to turn all metre-gauge rail lines into broad-gauge. For this sleepers with quality is important. A quality railway sleeper can sustain up to 50 years.
The sleepers which brought by India will not be used if it does not match with our quality standard, he said.
According to BR sources, railway has submitted allegation in this regard to Indian High Commission through prime minister's office and Economic Relations Department (ERD). But, no result.
Former governor of Bangladesh Bank Dr Farasuddin said, "Several sections should be checked carefully before signing any agreement. Otherwise, there is a chance to enter low quality products. At this, country has to pay the price and the misuse of state wealth has taken place."
As per agreement, directives were given to bring manpower and machinery to the project site, but the Indian company pass one year in this regard. During this time several attempts were taken to make the Indian side to start the work but those went into vein.
The authorities gave appointment of many unskilled sub-contractors paying a little amount of money. As a result, the construction work is getting delayed, according to a report of Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of planning ministry.
IRCON International changes multiple times over the duration of the project. Most of the work of the project is supposed to be completed by June 2019.
The project was initially delayed for not getting Indian Exim Bank's approval timely and land acquisition-related problem.
The revised project witnesses a 120% hike in cost; it was originally estimated at Tk1721.39 crore when first approved by the Ecnec in December 2010. The government will provide Tk519 crore for the project while Tk1202 crore will come from the Indian loan.
According to the agreement, 75 percent products and service to be used in the project have to be brought from India and the contractors should also be Indian national.