There's a pressing matter engaging the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) these days. Before current chief Sanjeev Tripathi retires by the end of this year, India’s intelligence agency would like to have its showpiece new headquarters in Delhi up and running. But construction work at the 12-storey building has been on halt for the past four years even as R&AW tries to arrange the funds and battles objections raised by the Finance Ministry about the “arbitrary” amendments in the building’s design and scope.
Meanwhile, the stone cladding has got damaged, granite discoloured and several window panes smashed or jammed in the half-built structure, even as R&AW officials use the ground floor space as a parking lot.
Earlier this month, top R&AW officials held another round of meetings with the finance team of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in an attempt to get the stalled project moving. Their demand: a fresh allocation of around Rs 27 crore over and above the Rs 137.75 crore already sanctioned in 2009 by the Committee on Non-Planned Expenditure.
Officials admitted that there was little hope of a solution soon given the series of objections raised by the Finance Ministry earlier over the huge project cost overruns and the “arbitrary” changes to its plan.
Requisitioned way back in 1998, the original funds estimate regarding the R&AW project was Rs 100.92 crore, which went up to Rs 129.94 crore by 2003. The latest note submitted to the Finance Ministry revises the requirement to Rs 163.99 crore.
Inevitably, comparisons are being drawn with the new CBI headquarters located next to the R&AW building in the CGO complex, which was built in three years. Both buildings have exactly the same area (7,000 sq m) but while the CBI building was constructed by the National Buildings Construction Corporation, the construction of the R&AW building is being done by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD). The CBI building, however, was constructed at a higher cost of Rs 186 crore.
When the final approvals were given to the CPWD in 2003, the plan was to have the R&AW building ready in three years. The CPWD, that has its own litany of complaints, states in a note that the project design “underwent a continuous process of modification” and that they had stopped construction as “zero funds” were available with them. They also said the contractor (Nagarjuna Construction Company ) was pressing for closure of the contract.