Nagpur Today impact: NHAI cancels Patansaongi Toll Plaza contract

Acting on the revealing reports being published by Nagpur Today, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has finally cancelled the contract of a Mumbai-based contractor who was found collecting toll at Patansaongi Toll Plaza on Saoner Road without submitting bank guarantee. The NHAI bosses at Delhi Headquarters viewed the matter seriously and cancelled the contract of tainted contractor Pravin Pande who in “connivance” of Divisional babus was running the toll plaza “illegally.”

The NHAI has not only cancelled the contract but also floated a fresh tender for appointing a new contractor to run the Patansaongi Toll Plaza on Nagpur-Saoner-Betul Section of NH-69. September 11 is last date for interested contractors to participate in the tender process. The tender will be opened on September 12. With such a short period for tender process, an experienced contractor of Nagpur named Khalatkar could try his luck along with other contractors from Mumbai and Delhi.

It may be recalled that Nagpur Today had flashed reports cornering NHAI authorities for permitting the Mumbai-based contractor Pravin Pande to collect toll at Patansaongi Toll Plaza without submission of mandatory bank guarantee. Rattled by the reports, the Nagpur Division office of NHAI indulged massive cover-up to save their skin. Instead of forcing the errant contractor to submit bank guarantee, the NHAI Divisional office put the ball in Delhi-based Headquarters’ court saying the bank guarantee issue is handled by the Delhi bosses.

The Nagpur Division Project Director of NHAI, reacting to the Nagpur Today reports, had feigned ignorance and pointed fingers at Delhi-based Headquarters. He said the entire tendering process of toll contract is handled by Delhi bosses. The Mumbai-based contractor Pravin Pande was awarded the contract to collect toll at Patansaongi plaza on Saoner Road by the Headquarters. The Nagpur Division of NHAI was only directed to “handover” the toll plaza to the new contractor. That we did, the Project Director quipped.

The construction of National Highway stretch between Nagpur-Saoner-Betul was completed two years ago. After completion of the work, NHAI had started the toll plaza at Patansaongi. Till the last month, the responsibility of recovering the toll from passing vehicles was with the local youths as part of providing them employment. Exactly a month ago, the NHAI had floated a tender for running the toll plaza. The tender was allotted to a controversial Mumbai-based contractor named Pravin Pande. According to terms and conditions of the tender, it was mandatory for the contractor to deposit an amount equal to an average collection of 30 days with NHAI in the form of DD and bank guarantee of equal amount. But the contractor has still not deposited the bank guarantee to the NHAI. Even after this “lapse,” the contractor is running the toll plaza in connivance with the NHAI officials.

When Saoner Congress MLA Sunil Kedar came to know about the “illegal” collection of toll at Patansaongi Toll Plaza which comes under his constitution he had shot letters to Union Surface Transport and National Highway Minister and NHAI authorities and apprised them about the illegal running of the toll plaza. But nothing seemed to be moving in right direction as the authorities chose to disregard Kedar’s letter. This attitude of NHAI left Kedar fuming and he again sent hard-hitting letters to Nagpur as well as Delhi bosses of NHAI and revealed the illegal acts of contractor Pravin Pande. This time the NHAI authorities woke up and initiated process for cancelling the contract of Pande. Kedar was also informed about the step accordingly. However, until the new contractor is given the job, the old contractor will continue to collect toll at Patansaongi Toll Plaza.

According to sources, cancellation of contract could put Pravin Pande at a loss of Rs 2 crore. He has hinted knocking doors of courts shortly and seek justice.