In 1951, when the first census of national income of India was ended the per capita income of Assam was five percent higher than the national average. After 64 years, Assam is 40% below than the national average capital thanks to the long-pending infrastructure projects in this part of the region.
Bogibeel Bridge, being one of them has already missed several deadlines since the project was commissioned in 1998-99. It is the country’s longest rail-cum-road bridge. It was one of the main projects taken under the Assam accord signed between the All Assam Students Union and the Central government.
Twelve years later, in 1997, the then prime minister HD Deve Gowda sanctioned the project which was to be completed by the end of the Ninth Five-Year Plan. But construction on the project only began during the NDA regime, in 2002. The 4.94 km bridge, stated to be the lifeline of the Northeast, will facilitate connectivity between north and south banks of the Brahmaputra in the eastern region of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The initial target for completion of the same was fixed at 2009, but due to shortage of fund, the project completion target has been fixed at 2014. Then again the deadline was extended to Dec 2015, and finally the centre has set a new deadline of March, 2017.
The bridge is expected not only to reduce the travel time, business opportunities but also crucial for defense requirement especially to neutralise the threat from China.
‘The main reason for the delay of the Bogibeel bridge and for that matter other infrastructure project of the state is the low level monitoring of the centre into these projects’ says Pradyut Bora, economist and former, National Executive Member of Bhartiya Janata party.
The DONER ministry is wrapping up its duty only by releasing funds in instalments. But the main duty of the DONER is to monitor effective implementation of whatever project is going on in the Northeast. This is the main reason why the construction of Bogibeel has not even completed 50% by now.
It has been nearly 13 years since former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee inaugurated the rail-cum-road Bogibeel bridge project in Dibrugarh on April 21, 2002 and construction work was started. Bogibeel was declared as a national project by PM Manmohan Singh later, in July 2007.
The intial cost of the project was fixed at Rs 1,767crore when the target of completion was 2009. But the pace of work was sluggish till 2007 Bogibeel project was declared a national project in 2007. In 2012, the actual cost of the present was fixed at Rs 4,500 crore. Till March 2013, Rs 2700.64 crore was spent and another Rs 340 crore was sanctioned in the 2013–14 budget for the project. An expenditure of Rs. 3,041 crore has been incurred up to March 2014. An outlay of Rs. 600 crorewas being provided for the year 2014-15,
Significantly, the completion of the fourth and longest bridge over the Brahmaputra is expected to usher in a new era of economic development in the entire region, particularly in rail and road communication.
‘By Dec, 2016, 95% work of the bridge will be completed. We are expecting to open the bridge by June 2017 for rail and motor vehicle communication,’ Dilip Bora, Senior Public Relations officer, NF Railway (Construction).
The S.P. Sukla Commission after critically examining the gap in important sectors of infrastructure development in Northeastern Region especially in power commission, railways, roads, education agriculture etc has stated that to bridge the gap of backlog in the NE with other parts of India is Rs. 80,000 cores in 1995-96.
Amiyo Sharma, Economist from Assam says, ‘The Sukla Commission had given an estimate of Rs.80.000 crore in 1995-96. But now it has shoot up to Rs. 12000000 crore for 2014-15. Delay in the important projects like the Bogibeel is widening the gap continuously.’
The Central Government in 2012 declared 9 ongoing railway projects as National railway projects. Of the 9 declared national rail projects in the northeast, work of some of which sanctioned way back in 1996–97 has been moving at a snail’s pace mainly due to lack of fund and few other reasons. Slow progress of work and delay in completion of these projects has also pushed their costs to record high.
Syeda Ambia Zahan
Photo Courtesy: Satyakam Dutta