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SOURCE: ET

The armed forces are initiating action against construction companies for delays and corruption in projects following a scathing letter from Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat in which he flagged malpractices in the building of accommodation for soldiers across the country. Sent to the three service chiefs a few days ago, the letter said ‘urgent measures are needed’ to stem cost overruns and shoddy construction and calls for time-bound action to fix responsibility against erring officials.

Sources said the letter was sent after a meeting between the CDS and the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) in which work done under the married accommodation project (MAP) was discussed. The letter was part of “routine administrative actions which need no special attention”, they said. While there have been widespread complaints against MAP accommodation, as reported by ET earlier, a particular project in Meerut, completed in 2010, was discussed at the meeting. The top officer faced questions from the CVC on slow progress, sub-standard construction and corrupt practices that have caused delays and overpayments.

The CDS pointed out that similar malpractices were observed in annual works and maintenance projects and said charges for some things, such as internal roads, were “exorbitant and escalatory costs”. Describing some construction work under the second phase of MAP as “unliveable”, sources said it would be difficult to justify release of funds for buildings under the third phase. Over a 100,000 dwelling units have been constructed under the first two phases of MAP and over 70,000 are planned for the next two phases.

The CDS has emphasised that there can be no justification for inaction against corrupt practices and that officials concerned cannot pass over blame to the contractors executing the projects. Calling for time-bound action, Gen Rawat said it is embarrassing to face such questions from the CVC and that the guilty and erring officials need to be brought to book.

The letter has prompted the services to take action and review the projects. Sources said an internal study that will suggest complete reforms is nearing competition. As reported by ET earlier, there have been several cases of malpractice in the MAP project. Recently, the army forwarded a case of tilted buildings in a housing project in Kolkata to the CBI.