The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Car park at dead end
- Mayor’s panel seeks to placate traders, builder counts losses

The technology is in place, the trial runs have been carried out, but the light just refuses to turn from red to green at the city’s first fully automated underground parking plaza.

More than 30 days have gone by since the successful trial runs, but the Lindsay Street Parkomat is yet to allow cars to roll in. The reason: the mayor’s soft-pedalling on the civic issue.

Instead of flagging it off, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya has set up a panel to sort out the Parkomat problems with the New Market Joint Action Forum. The traders’ body demands change in the original plan, as it doesn’t want the proposed pedestrian plaza and the waterbody on Lindsay Street.

It is also pressing for a thoroughfare linking Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Free School Street.

And as the discussions continue, Simplex Projects — CMC’s joint-venture partner — counts its losses.

B.K. Mundra, chairman, Simplex Projects, said: “Work on the project has come to a standstill since April 2, and the accumulated financial loss has already crossed Rs 1 crore. The interest loss has been Rs 25 lakh per month.”

Simplex has invested Rs 22 crore in the joint-venture project, but is yet to recover a paisa from the project and is unsure when the revenue stream will start flowing.

The mayor is aware of the situation. “I know this sort of intervention always affects the momentum of development activities. But as the situation was spinning out of control, I constituted the committee to resolve the crisis,” Bhattacharyya said in defence.

According to civic body engineers, the traders’ body demand is unreasonable as the waterbody is a must as a fire-fighting measure. Besides, a carriageway along the northern flank of Lindsay Street is a structural impossibility (see graphic).

Former mayor Subrata Mukherjee blames the CPM’s infighting for the delay. “It is a conflict between CPM’s Calcutta district committee and the mayor. The traders are just being used as pawns in the battle,” observed Mukherjee.

The mayor is expecting a resolution shortly, but the Parkomat impasse has thrown up bigger questions regarding the viability of joint venture projects and safeguarding interests of private players.

“Public-private partnership projects are based on two-sided interests. So, it is the responsibility of the government to make the project commercially viable at competitive rates and facilitate the creation of an enabling environment to complete the project within the given time and cost,” observed Aloke Mookherjea, president, Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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