The flood in Lalbakaiya River, Gaur-4 forced a passenger boat against an under-construction bridge, resulting in the deaths of four people, of the 27 persons onboard. One of the main reasons behind this tragedy has been identified as the contractor not finishing the bridge on time. If the bridge had been constructed, the locals would not have to return home through the boat and they would not have to meet this tragedy. What is even more alarming is the fact that we know who the contractor is, that the contractor has been holding up number of such projects in various parts of the country, abandoning many of them halfway, not completing several others or constructing by using such substandard materials that bridges and structures built by this contractor collapse soon, making millions of rupees loss to the state coffers and causing great inconvenience to the locals.
The alleged perpetrator is Pappu Construction and its owner. But no action, not even interrogation, has been initiated against the contractor who is responsible for the tragedy of Saturday and several other instances of irregularities. It’s all because the owner of the construction company is Hari Narayan Rauniyar, the elected lawmaker from Federal Socialist Forum Nepal. Rauniyar has been enjoying political protection despite numerous media reports confirming that several number of multimillion projects contracted to his company remain unfinished. In December last year, Republica had extensively reported wrongdoings of this man who is sitting on these projects or even “giving trouble to government officials by using political connections.” It had been found that the official who took action against Pappu Construction for submitting fake documents to land the contracts was transferred under political pressure from the higher-ups.
It is unfortunate that Province 2 Chief Minister Lal Babu Raut, who went to express condolence to the family of the victims who lost lives in Lalbakaiya River incident, did not even express a commitment to take action against Rauniyar’s company. Instead he was defending him. This is where Nepali political actors miss opportunities to go against such power brokers. Politicians openly defend such contractors and even provide political protection, emboldening them to carry out substandard construction works even at the cost of people’s lives. It is also disheartening that the federal government has not taken any action against the contractors of Sikta Irrigation project though it is evident that their negligence at work caused a number of canals to collapse within a year of their construction. Construction of canal in the Sikta project was contracted to a company owned by another political leader and a former minister. Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa had once announced to take tough action against underperforming, fraudulent and corrupt contractors. Pappu construction has come to stand for all three anomalies. Why has there been no action against the owners of such fraudulent companies? Let us not forget if we keep allowing immunity to faulty contractors like Pappu, none of the infrastructure projects the country will build in the future will be safe and lasting. Pappu should not get clemency. Those involved, including the owners of this company, should be brought to book. It requires a strong political will from the leaders to ensure that no contractor will be left unpunished just because they are close to certain political parties. Prime Minister KP Oli vowed to go after corrupt individuals and activities and there can be no greater case than that of Pappu. If the federal government cannot punish Pappu for this mess, then PM’s vow will only be another feel-good remarks.