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Court grants state time on EW

The high court on Friday asked the state government whether it was serious about East-West Metro and told it to remove all hurdles at the earliest after it replied in the affirmative.

Justice Dipankar Dutta, who is hearing the case, had on June 4 said he would monitor the project and asked “competent officials” of three parties to sit down and sort out the problems by June 20.

The three parties are the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (the implementing agency of the project), Transtonnelstroy Afcons Joint Venture (awarded the contract to build the tracks and stations between Howrah Maidan and Bowbazar) and the urban development department.

When the case came up for hearing on Friday, government pleader Ashok Bannerjee prayed for a few more days to settle the disputes related to the selection of a site for Mahakaran station on the Sealdah-Howrah Maidan stretch.

“The government faces several problems. It has been proposed that underground tracks would be built beneath Brabourne Road. An abandoned petrol pump owned by the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is located on the stretch. How can the state allow digging on the stretch without the IOC’s approval for removal of the pump?” Bannerjee submitted.

He also pointed out that several underground wires and cables of BSNL, CESC and a gas company were creating problems. “We need approval from these companies (to shift the cables). So we need time,” Bannerjee said.

The judge then told the government pleader: “The government should have thought about the problems before starting the project. Does your government really intend to proceed with the project?”

The government pleader replied: “Yes. Our government always tries to provide more facilities to common people.”

The judge then said: “Proceed with the project and settle the disputes as quickly as possible. I am adjourning the matter for three weeks and I will hear the case again on July 10.”

An apparently relieved Bannerjee said: “Okay. You have taken the initiative to settle the disputes related to the Parama flyover project. The issue has already been settled. We welcome your initiative in this case, too.”

Justice Dutta pointed out that in the Parama case he had set up a committee headed by the urban development minister. “I may set up such a committee in this case, too.”

Bannerjee requested the judge to hold the July 10 hearing in the East-West case in his chamber.

Justice Dutta is hearing the case following a petition by Transtonnelstroy Afcons, which is a joint venture of Afcons (the infrastructure arm of Shapoorji Pallonji) and Russian company Transtonnelstroy.

Appearing for the company, lawyer Jayanta Mitra had submitted that the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation was threatening to cancel the contract for not starting work in time despite not handing over land for Mahakaran station.

Corporation officials had said they could not hand over land to the construction company because the state was not providing it and the alignment of the tracks on a stretch was yet to be finalised.

The corporation had proposed to the state government during a meeting held in compliance with the high court’s order that the government should hand over a small parcel of land on Brabourne Road so that work for constructing the tunnel under the Hooghly could be started.

The land is required for building a shaft through which the boring machine will be brought out after drilling the riverbed tunnel. Officials said the shaft could be built in six months.

Equipment worth Rs 80 crore imported from Germany to create the tunnel has been lying idle for two years.

The boring machines need to be taken underground through a shaft at Howrah Maidan, the site for which has been identified.

Once underground, the machines will start drilling a 500-metre stretch of tunnel under the Hooghly to reach the Calcutta side.

But the machines can’t be left under the Hooghly once boring is complete and need to be taken out at some point.