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East-West share transfer starts

The decision to transfer the state government’s share in East-West Metro to the Centre was formalised on Thursday, a move that means the railway and urban development ministries will now own the Rs 4,874-crore project aiming to connect Salt Lake and Howrah.

The state and the Centre agreed to the equity transfer at a meeting in Delhi. Chief secretary Sanjoy Mitra and senior officials in the railway and urban development ministries were among those who attended the meeting.

In the new scheme, the railway will own 74 per cent equity of the Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation Ltd and the urban development ministry the rest.

“The board of the corporation has been dissolved. A new board will soon be set up,” said a senior official in the urban development ministry.

A railway board member is likely to be chairperson of the new board, which will include a “special invitee” from Bengal, said sources.

A team from the railway board will soon visit Calcutta to assess the project, already running two years behind schedule.

The Union cabinet had given its seal of approval on the transfer of the state government’s equity to the railway in February 2012, when Trinamul was a key ally of the UPA government.

However, the process slowed down after Trinamul withdrew from the UPA II and Mukul Roy stepped down as railway minister.

“The process of transfer was virtually stalled. I had asked railway officials to write to the state government to expedite the transfer. That resulted in today’s development,” said junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury.

“This proves that the Centre will not stall any development project in Bengal if funds are available.”

According to the minister, the railway will set up a separate body to run the East-West Metro. “Since it’s a joint venture, a separate body will be formed soon,” said Chowdhury.

H.K. Sharma, director, Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation, has been appointed acting managing director.

B.P. Gopalika, the transport secretary in the Bengal government, was earlier doubling as managing director of the corporation.

The meeting in Delhi, however, did not discuss the issue of the Bengal government getting back around Rs 140 crore that it has already spent on the project.

The funding agency is scheduled to pay Rs 2,253 crore of the total project cost of Rs 4,874 crore.

The rest will be borne by the railways and urban development ministry.