Calcutta, Sept. 16: Bengal’s failure to use funds for three central projects has prompted Delhi to withdraw them and ask the state government to pay an interest of at least 8 per cent on the money it released over the past four years.
The three projects that the central sanctioning and monitoring committee (CSMC) of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has decided to withdraw are a road widening project and a water supply plan for Asansol and a bus terminus for the Nabadiganta Industrial Township in Salt Lake.
Sources said a total Rs 234.87 crore was sanctioned for the projects between 2009 and 2010, of which the Centre released Rs 29.12 crore.
According to a decision taken at a CSMC meeting on September 4, the state government not only has to return the amount released by it but also has to pay an interest of not less than 8 per cent a year to the Centre.
“The amount would not be much. But it is an embarrassment for the state that is accusing the Centre of not releasing funds for Bengal,” an official said.
The decision to withdraw the projects comes at a time the chief minister has been trying to develop infrastructure in Bengal to attract investment to the state.
Senior government officials said none of the three projects, sanctioned between 2009 and 2010, took off. The deadline was March 2014. The projects not only suffered during the Left’s tenure but also after the change of guard at Writers’, they added.
According to a senior state government official, it is the first time the Centre has decided to withdraw projects approved under JNNURM from Bengal and also levy an interest on the funds released.
“The formal communication about the decision is yet to reach us but we have been verbally informed,” a Writers’ official said.
A section of government officials said Bengal’s hands-off land policy led to the non-commissioning of the projects.
“For the projects in Asansol, the urban development department needed land. Projects like widening of roads and drinking water supply need land. But neither the erstwhile Left Front government nor the current government took initiatives to acquire land for the projects,” an official said.
For the proposed bus terminus in Nabadiganta area, officials of Calcutta Municipal Development Authority (CMDA) said they did not know why the money did not reach them despite land being identified for the project.
“The project was supposed to come up in AL-BL block near the Nayapatti area of Salt Lake. But I don’t know why the money did not reach us though the project was sanctioned more than a year ago,” a CMDA official said.
According to some senior officials at Writers’, the Centre had warned the state government repeatedly before withdrawing the projects.
“The state informed the Centre that the projects were getting delayed because of some unavoidable circumstances. Although unavailability of land was not shown as the reason, everybody at Writers’ knows that it was responsible for the projects not making any progress in Asansol,” an official said.
The National Highways Authority of India has failed to widen NH35 because of unavailability of land and that of NH31D also has been stalled for three years, the official said. The widening of large portions of NH34 is also still stuck.