Watchdog for road quality

Patna, Feb. 12: Bihar is all set to enter a regime that would ensure damage-free roads ' state highways (4,857km) and major district roads (9,000km).

The state now boasts of a policy which would lead to quick repair of damaged roads. The policy would also give leverage to the road construction department to explore the option of private investment for constructing state highways.

Christened "Bihar Road Assets Maintenance Policy, 2013", the policy got cabinet approval today.

Sharing policy details with The Telegraph, road construction minister Nand Kishore Yadav said: "The policy would allow a shift from the existing input-based maintenance system to the output-based system."

At present, in case of any damage to a road, estimates are made following which tenders are floated and works are awarded. Generally this takes around six months.

It has one more problem. The estimates are made on the basis of the extent of damage assessed at a particular point of time. By the time actual repair starts, there remains every possibility that the damage has aggravated but the repair work is done only to the extent for which estimates were made and tenders floated.

Under the new policy, maintenance work would be awarded for different stretches of roads for a period of five years and the contractor would be responsible for repairing the damage within the stipulated time. The selection of contractors would be done on the basis of competitive bidding.

"Different time-frames have been fixed for different kinds of damages. Like in case of potholes, the repairing has to be done within three days. Similarly, the time-frame for damages caused by natural calamities like floods etc, have been fixed," Yadav said.

The road construction department would be responsible for keeping a tab on the state highways and district roads so that contractors, who would be awarded the work, could be told about the damage in case they fail to locate these on their own. The policy says that a junior engineer officer would have to take stock of roads under his jurisdiction every three days. Similar frequency of inspections has been set for senior officials.

The department would be rid of taking the pain of checking the quality of repair work because contractors would have to keep the roads damage-free anyhow.

"The policy has both reward and punishment provisions for those responsible for maintaining the roads. Those seen to be performing would have a chance to get a four-year extension of maintenance work whereas those found to be lacking would end up losing the contract," said the minister.

Payments to the contractors would be done on monthly basis. Contractors would get more funds during the rainy season when damage is maximum.

The new policy would also allow contractors to use technology of their choice. At present, they had to follow certain norms, fixed at the time of awarding work, for carrying out road repairs.

The policy also allows the road construction department to explore the possibility of private investment for constructing state highways.

"As private investment would lead to toll collection from commuters, we would use this tool judiciously," Yadav said.

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