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Metro in cash demand slash

- Govt roadblocks prompt 60 per cent cut

Metro Railway has slashed by 60 per cent its demand for money for route extension, a telling effect of the state’s attitude that has rendered the projects conceived by Mamata Banerjee uncertain.

Railway ministry sources said Metro had sought around Rs 1,500 crore for four ongoing projects for the 2013-14 fiscal, which means it is likely to get even less. In the last railway budget, presented by Trinamul’s Dinesh Trivedi, Metro had allocated Rs 4,000 crore for the schemes.

“Metro Railway and the Rail Vikas Nigam have sought a budgetary outlay of around Rs 1,500 crore for four Metro projects in and around Calcutta for the fiscal 2013-14. This is against the sanctioned outlay of around Rs 4,000 crore in the last budget,” a railway ministry official said over the phone from Delhi. The Nigam is the implementing agency of three of the four projects.

Trinamul’s exit from the UPA government has resulted in the state government losing interest in the projects. Metro has highlighted how work on most of the schemes has come to a standstill for various reasons — including the government’s reluctance to help remove squatters and the civic body’s delay in dismantling an old water pipe.

Last year, despite the grant of Rs 4,000 crore, Metro could only spend around Rs 800 crore, with officials blaming the Mamata government’s lack of cooperation for the hold-up. In the coming fiscal, too, an official pointed out, “the maximum we can spend on the projects is Rs 800 crore”.

Last week, the railways had cancelled a tender for setting up a depot at Joka for the Joka-BBD Bag Metro project. According to officials, 62 acres had to be acquired from private owners to set up the depot.

“The tender was floated in August and eight major infrastructure companies bid for the scheme. The condition was that the railways would have to hand over at least 25 per cent of the land within 30 days of signing the contract. The tender was scrapped after we realised that land could not be acquired soon,” a railway official said.

ITD, an Indo-Thai venture that has built Calcutta airport’s new terminal, was among those who had responded to the tender.

The Telegraph had on February 20 reported how infrastructure giant L&T had to withdraw its “men and machinery” from Metro’s Noapara-Airport-Barasat project as a clear site was unavailable for construction. The reason cited in the company’s letter suggests work had stopped because of the government’s decision not to try and persuade squatters on a 5km stretch of railway land to relocate.

Encroachment on railway land has also stopped work on the Noapara-Dakshineswar stretch of the Noapara-Baranagar-Barrackpore and the Joka-BBD Bag projects.

The New Garia-Airport project, too, is said to have been marred by land issues. Metro officials claimed the East Calcutta Wetlands Management is yet to allow laying of tracks through a stretch.