The government will reissue tenders for the strategic Zojila pass tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir by April and work on the Rs 6,000-crore project will commence by August, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said today. The project aims at providing much-needed all-weather connectivity between Kashmir valley and Ladakh, which remains cut-off from rest of the world during winters due to heavy snowfall. “We understand the plight of the people in Leh and Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir who face severe crisis during winters when they are cut off from the rest of India for six months. We are committed to undertaking the project and will issue tenders by April,” the Road, Transport and Highways Minister said here.
Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578-ft on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway which remains closed during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches cutting off Leh-Ladakh region from Kashmir. The minister said the project would cost an estimated Rs 6,000 crore. “This year around August 15 we will give appointment date for the important project and start work,” he said.
He said there are about 25-30 companies in the country having expertise in tunnel making, who can bid for the project. “We have decided to prequalify hydro-power tunnel makers also for Zojila,” Gadkari said. Last year on March 1, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry had ordered “rebidding” for the project, which had been awarded to IRB Infrastructure. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting, chaired by Gadkari, after Congress leader Digvijay Singh alleged that guidelines were violated while awarding the contract.
The Road Transport and Highways Ministry, however, had denied the charges. “The Ministry follows due procedure while maintaining complete transparency in the award of any contracts. In the instant case also, the contract was awarded after due diligence after the bid was found technically responsive. “Financial bid was opened and the quoted Semi Annuity amount found in line with the approval of CCEA for award of the work,” it had said.