In what is being said to be the strictest such action, Palghar collector Abhijeet Bangar has fined a highway construction company Rs 247 crore for stealing sand and gravel.
In an order dated December 8, 2016, the collector gave Supreme Infrastructure India Ltd, which built the Manor-Wada-Bhiwandi state highway in 2013, a month's time to cough up the penalty. The move came after local activist Nilesh Sambare went on a fast unto death last August to draw the attention of the authorities to incomplete project work and poor road quality leading to accidents and loss of life. “I am happy with the verdict; it will deter all contractors from cutting corners," he said.
The contractor refused to comment on the matter, saying it is being contested in court.
The order mentions that Supreme Infra had earlier been stopped from taking toll because of the incomplete work, and goes on to state that the contractor allegedly stole the mud, gravel and sand required to complete the 65 km highway, causing loss to the government.
Furthermore, because of the deadly mishaps that its shoddy work led to, the contractor has been asked to pay Rs 25 lakh to each of the families of the 138 people who died on the stretch in the last two years.
In an email response to this reporter, the firm said it worked as per tender specifications and completed the work before time, which was approved by the public works department (PWD). It alleged that the Palghar collector had issued notices to them without carrying out a panchnama or studying the costs involved.The collector's order is, the firm's statement said, being challenged in the Bombay High Court.