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Court clears flyover decks
- HCC asked to resume work on Parama-Park Circus link

Calcutta High Court has breathed life back into the stalled Parama-Park Circus flyover, asking Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) to start where it had left off 15 months ago and complete the project within budget by May 2016.

“Go ahead with the work,” Justice Dipankar Datta told lawyers representing HCC and the government on Wednesday, seeking to nix the possibility of Calcutta’s longest flyover being delayed longer than it already has been because of a lingering contract dispute.

Mumbai-based HCC’s contract had been withdrawn with 35 per cent of the project still to be completed, triggering a blame game over problems ranging from on-site delays to cost escalation.

Justice Datta, who was hearing a petition by HCC challenging the decision to look for a new contractor, put the onus on the government to shift underground utilities from the project sites.

HCC, on the other hand, would need to stick to a budget of Rs 257 crore for the remainder of the flyover. The figure is smaller than what it had quoted while bidding for the project afresh.

Although HCC’s bid was the lower of two received by the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) in response to a tender call last December, it was rejected on account of the amount being 12 per cent higher than the consultant-recommended figure of Rs 257 crore.

Urban development minister Firhad Hakim called the court’s attempt to end the impasse “a remarkable order”.

“I welcome it. The court has set a deadline to finish the work. If we can comply with it, people will benefit,” he told Metro.

Hakim heads a committee comprising top officials of all the agencies whose help HCC would need to complete the remaining work. The court has asked the committee to meet at least once a month to monitor the progress of work.

The panel includes the principal secretary of the urban development department, the CEO of the CMDA, the commissioner of Calcutta police and the municipal commissioner.

But in a city where infrastructure projects routinely hit hurdles, the court’s order is still no guarantee that Calcuttans would be able to take the flyover by mid-2016.

Wednesday’s order is a breakthrough nevertheless. The court has also left the door ajar for either party to approach it in case of any difficulty in completing the work.

Work on the 8.14-km Parama-Park Circus flyover had started in February 2010 and was supposed to be completed by August 2012. HCC had blamed its inability to meet the deadline — and the consequent cost escalation — on the CMDA’s failure to hand over some of the sites and shift the underground utilities along the construction zone.

Lawyer Ashoke Banerjee, representing the government, said during the first hearing that the onus of obtaining clearances to shift these utilities was on the agencies concerned. It prompted the court to specify on Wednesday that the CMDA must provide an alternative site or space to shift these utilities.

“It means that the exact location where a particular line should be shifted must be provided by the CMDA. If a water supply line is to be shifted, the CMDA should tell the contractor whether it should be shifted a foot or two feet,” a lawyer said.

Justice Datta also drew up an elaborate work schedule, fixing timelines for each. For instance, the remaining work between the Parama crossing and Silver Spring must be completed by November.

Sources said both parties seemed to ease their stand on the areas of dispute in the run-up to the court’s order.

Lawyers representing HCC had initially insisted that either the CMDA should shift the utility lines or pay for it, which would have entailed raising the budget beyond Rs 257 crore.

The government said it couldn’t afford to spend anything above that amount but would do everything possible to remove the roadblocks.

The battery of lawyers representing HCC in the case included senior counsel S.K. Kapur and Sanjay Ginodia.

While HCC’s petition is technically yet to be disposed of, the government’s invitation for fresh bids in February has been stayed to facilitate Wednesday’s order.

Once completed, the Parama-Park Circus flyover will significantly reduce the travel time between central Calcutta and the city’s eastern fringe, including Salt Lake and beyond.