BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
“Can you tell me when Kala Academy will be ready to be thrown open to the public?” Odette Da Silva, Chief Engineer II of PWD asks the contractor over the phone. “Are you sure, the lights, sound, air conditioning and everything will be operational by the end of July?” she queries.
“Kala Academy should be open by August of this year. The main work is in the air-conditioned hall and tiles in the foyer are being refit free of cost by the contractor as the previous work was substandard,” admits Odette as she sits with senior engineers of her department, discussing details of the progress of work at Kala Academy.
Kala Academy, the cradle of cultural and social activities in the capital city has been kept out of reach of people since May 2021, when the work for structural repair and renovation was given by nomination for an amount estimated to have crossed Rs 65 crores.
Two years down the line, after a vigilance inquiry being ordered, the Chinese mosaic on the foyer is being removed, the air-conditioned auditorium looks messy and final touches are being given to classrooms. This is the ground reality.
“Work is normally given on nomination when there is an extraordinary emergency to finish the work. If there is a war or something important has to be completed fast – within a year’s time or faster, only such work is given on nomination,” a senior PWD engineer disclosed on the condition of anonymity.
“I am not sure when Kala Academy will be operational. The PWD will be able to throw light on that. However, I do now know that the contractors have added to the workforce and the place should be ready soon,” stated Viresh Arlenkar, the secretary of Kala Academy.
“Water seeping into the interior of the auditorium was a constant problem that we have now managed to solve by installing an automatic system of hydraulic pumping which will pump the water out when it seeps in,” explained Odette while disclosing that since the level of the stage is low and water table is higher, seepage is inevitable.
“The contractor has been ordered to remove the China mosaic tiles in 2000 square metres of the foyer and put in new ones as what was used by him was substandard. The contractor will do this work with no cost to the government,” assured Odette.
Apart from a vigilance inquiry, a matter relating to financial impropriety regarding the nomination of work in Kala Academy is in the High Court of Bombay in Goa, and a judgment is expected soon.
“Look at the work going on in the auditorium. The air-conditioning, the lights, the sound, the flooring and the seating have to be redone. These scaffolds are just the beginning,” moaned an engineer on the condition of anonymity.
“We have already spent more than 75 crores on the work, and it is still far from over. The rains are going to start soon, and it will give us an idea of how the technology of the automatic hydraulic pumping is going to work,” stated the senior PWD engineer.
As the PWD hopes the contractors will hand over the renovated Kala Academy on the promised date of the end of July, students enrolled will have to ride through another monsoon hoping that the deadlines will this time be met.