CPM flags dot the railings of the EM Bypass-VIP Road flyover during its launch on Wednesday. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
The state government on Wednesday turned the launch of the much-delayed EM Bypass-VIP Road flyover almost into an election rally, with red party flags adorning the structure and the chief minister and other guests delivering speeches that sounded like poll-time pleas for votes.
Motorists driving down VIP Road and the EM Bypass were amused to hear Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee describe the flyover — that took over 34 months to come up from the day of commissioning and missed two deadlines — as “a miracle”. He went on to list the urban infrastructure projects the Left Front government had completed.
“We are the ones who have paid the price for the delay in construction. I have had to leave home with at least half an hour’s cushion every time I had to cross Ultadanga. Traffic in the entire area suffered because of the delay,” said a resident of Lake Town.
He felt the chief minister should have apologised for the 1,200m flyover missing two deadlines instead of trumpeting his government’s achievements.
The Rs 67-crore project was commissioned in March 2008 with March 2010 as the deadline for its commissioning. It went on to miss the Puja 2010 deadline as well.
“Even 24 months is too long a period for building such a short flyover. In other cities, such flyovers come up in less than a year,” said an engineer with a private construction major.
With the Assembly elections just months away, Bhattacharjee, his cabinet colleagues Asok Bhattacharya and Manab Mukherjee and MLA Rupa Bagchi did not dwell on mistakes and delays, laying all blame on the Centre, which did not “release enough funds under the JNNURM scheme”.
“People can see how we have improved roads, flyovers, water supply, drainage, street lights and slums. Calcutta has better infrastructure than many cities,” said the chief minister as about 500 people — ferried to the venue in mini-vans and Matadors — broke into orchestrated applause.
Bhattacharjee’s flyover count stopped at four completed ones — Sealdah, AJC Bose Road, Park Street and Ballygunge — and two under-construction ones — on Vivekananda Road and between the Park Circus crossing and the Parama island.
“That’s a very poor report card. What the chief minister did not mention is that these flyovers took years to come up and most of them suffer from faulty planning,” said a former engineer of the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA).
“Work on the flyover near the Parama island is yet to pick up speed. Work on the flyovers on Vivekananda Road and near Nagerbazar is proceeding at a snail’s pace and nobody knows when they will be ready. The incomplete flyovers are creating massive traffic snarls at both places. I don’t know how can the government boast about its achievements?” asked the engineer.