Indian Defence: Unpaid bills hold up key defence work

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BENGALURU: The defence ministry’s inability to clear contractors’ bills of about Rs 2,000 crore has affected critical infrastructure work at several bases and cantonments across India, including those in forward areas bordering Pakistan.

At least eight runway upgradation projects, including the one at Sulur air base that hosts Tejas, and more than six hangar projects, including ones being built to hold Rafales in Ambala and Hashimara, have been hit.

“Work on runways in Sulur, Tambaram, Chandigarh, Sirsa, Palam, Allahabad, Hyderabad, Chabua and Dinjan have either stopped completely or slowed down drastically with contractors unable to bear the burden. It’s the same story with hangars at Ambala, Hashimara, Sirsa, Kakaikunda, Chabua and Dinjan,” Praveen Mahana, president, MES Builders Association of India, told TOI.

A serving IAF officer said most work has come to a standstill. The contractors, as TOI reported in January, are currently struggling to cope with pending bills of more than Rs 1,600 crore.

Mahana added that nonpayment of bills has hit two military hospitals being built in Udhampur and Pune. “Some work has been done in Udhampur but there’s a lot pending in Pune. All the ‘Other Than Married’ housing projects in Poonch, Rajori, Leh, Kargil, Baramullah, among other places, have been stopped,” he said.

An MoD spokesperson told TOI: “Money is being reappropriated to relevant MES budget heads to address the matter.”

While the MoD, as per the association, cleared some bills late January, it’s yet to reach contractors. “In any case, it’s just 25% of the amount it owes us. Add to this fresh bills and the situation becomes worse,” an MESBAI office-bearer said.





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