The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Two-pronged custody fight for flyovers

The four flyovers being built with Japanese funds have succeeded in attracting surrogate parents, though three of them are yet to be commissioned.

The Trinamul Congress-controlled Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has demanded that it be given charge of all four, though the Left Front government wants the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC), under its direct control, to take over.

Officers say they are not surprised at the unseemly fight for custody that has erupted even before a single vehicle tested any of the four, except the Gariahat flyover. With little money likely to be needed for maintaining them and the revenue from advertisement rights expected to be in six or seven-figure amounts, these are four “children” any “parent” will give anything for, they explain.

The agreement that the state government entered into with the funding agency (JBIC), overseers of the projects till their completion, made it clear that the latter will not be responsible for maintaining them. This, officers said, sparked off the tug-of-war.

State transport minister Subhas Chakraborty held a meeting with senior departmental officers last week to decide on the custodian of the four flyovers. Realising that their maintenance will entail a recurring cost — however little — the state government decided to allow the agency maintaining them to raise funds for their upkeep by selling space for advertisement, officers said.

Usually, agencies like the state Public Works Department, the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority and the Calcutta Improvement Trust — responsible for project implementation — get the responsibility of maintenance as well, say officers. But with a Japanese funding agency, complications are inevitable, they add.

Realising that the Trinamul-controlled CMC he heads stands a chance, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has reasoned that as the flyovers run above CMC-maintained roads, the CMC should get their custody as well.

“The CMC maintains the roads over which the flyovers have come up,” the mayor said on Friday. “Separate agencies maintaining the flyover on top and the road below defies logic,” he added, sounding confident that there “should not be any other option before the state government” than the CMC.

But the state transport department is not going to give in without a fight that boils down to cold currency calculations. Since the HRBC was involved in the projects from their inception and was monitoring the progress of their construction, it was “natural” that the agency get custody, officers “reasoned”.

Making it clear that, ultimately, the state transport minister will take the decision, joint secretary of the transport department Prashant made a case for the HRBC. “HRBC has done a good job of maintaining Vidyasagar Setu,” he said. So, he “thought”, the HRBC will be a “good enough choice.”

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