The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flash flood of upgrade funds
- Rs 1200-crore boon for six years

With Delhi agreeing to provide funds with no strings attached for the next six years, it's bonanza time for Calcutta.

Thanks to the newly-launched National Urban Renewal Mission Fund, the Vivekananda Road flyover, widening of the EM Bypass's southern-most flank and setting up the rotary flyover at Dunlop are all being given the green light.

Bengal will get nearly Rs 1,200 crore in six years against specific schemes on infrastructure development for the city and also Asansol.

The government has already sent a list of 37 projects, estimated to cost Rs 1,500 crore, to be implemented using the new fund. The Centre will provide 85 per cent of the project cost, while the implementing agency must shell out the rest.

A committee formed by the urban development department has made lists of projects on a priority basis (see chart). The first list involves projects worth Rs 374 crore, while the second list includes projects estimated to cost Rs 352 crore.

State urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya recently held a meeting with Union urban development minister S. Jaipal Reddy and handed over the first list of projects to him.

'We have submitted a priority list to the Centre and the Union minister (Reddy) has assured me of funds from the mission fund at the earliest,' Bhattacharya told Metro.

The minister said discussions were held on the conditions that had been laid down by the Centre for the utilisation of the fund. The conditions include withdrawal of the urban land ceiling Act, slashed stamp duties and certain changes in the tenancy laws.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had refused to accept the conditions, accusing the Centre of interfering in state subjects.

During his meeting with Bhattacharya, Reddy assured the minister that the conditions would not be immediately applicable and agreed to a relaxation for six years. 'We need not withdraw the urban land ceiling Act or slash stamp duties right now to get the funds. We have told the Centre that we will think about that after six years,' said Bhattacharya.

The chief minister has, apparently, told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and minister Reddy that the state government wouldn't consider the conditions before five to six years.

Chairman of the Parliamentary standing committee on urban development, Mohammad Salim, said he had called up the union urban development secretary and other senior officers on March 4 and asked them to speed up the process of disbursing funds to the state.

'We have discussed the matter with central officers and they have assured us that funds required for the first list will be disbursed in this financial year. I have urged them not to block funds once the projects start,' Salim said.

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