The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Projects big, purse too small
- Crores spent to draw up feasibility reports

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's dream plans to improve the city's basic infrastructure could be undermined by a funds crunch.

The government had planned 20 major infrastructure projects in the past three years, but not a single one has materialised and there is no certainty, either, of these ever being implemented.

A sum of Rs 10 crore, however, has already been spent to prepare draft project reports and feasibility studies for a dozen of the projects.

Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, public works department minister Amar Choudhury and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty, the three ministers responsible for basic infrastructure development, attribute the snag to a lack of funds.

The government wants all mega projects, like the East-West Metro, a light rail transit (LRT) system and a permanent fair ground, to be implemented entirely with central assistance and foreign funds.

But the Centre has made it clear, time and again, that the state will have to contribute a portion of funds for any big project. In no case will the Centre provide a full grant for any project, as is the policy of the Planning Commission.

Officers said the government has to bear 20 per cent of the cost for the East-West Metro project, LRT and the Raichak-Kukrahati bridge to get the central and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) funds. All the three big transport infrastructure projects were stalled as the government expressed its inability to share funds.

'Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore have been successful in getting funds from the Centre and the JBIC for similar projects, as they agreed to bear one-third of the cost,' officers said.

They stressed that the crores spent on draft project reports and feasibility studies was money down the drain. For the East-West Metro project report alone, Rs 5 crore was spent. 'The government should not spend money further without making provision for funds,' they said.

Officers and engineers of Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation (TIDC), Traffic and Transportation Engineering Directorate and the CMDA, who have prepared dozens of feasibility reports, are in despair, as none of the projects has seen the light of day.

'We have prepared at least seven major project reports during the past two years but not a single one has materialised,' a TIDC official said.

Consulting Engineering Services (CES) was engaged to prepare four big project reports and has the same story to tell. CES director Samiran Sen said it was the government's responsibility to organise funds.

'If we fail to provide good roads, introduce modern modes of transport and improve road connectivity, investors will not be interested in setting up industrial units here,' pointed out a senior officer at Writers' Buildings.

But as transport minister Chakraborty said: 'The government is suffering from a severe funds crunch and is not even in a position to contribute a portion of funds for any big project. So, how can any big project take shape'

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