| Encroachments like these on the riverbank are hindering the implementation of the plan. A Telegraph picture
Siliguri, Sept. 12: The Mahananda Action Plan (MAP) — a part of the state government’s 25-year perspective plan for the Siliguri-Jalpaiguri region — seems destined for a major setback.
A sum of Rs 5 crore, sanctioned by the Centre for the implementation of the first phase of the project, might go back if it is not utilised within March next year.
The action plan, first proposed by experts from IIT, Kharagpur, in 2001, was mooted to clean up and widen the river. After a lot of haggling, the Centre finally gave its nod in 2003. A total of Rs 37 crore was allocated for the project and the first instalment was released at the beginning of the current financial year.
The Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA) and the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) — the agencies in charge of implementation of the project — however, have not been able to utilise a single paisa in all these months and the deadline is already in sight.
“If we cannot initiate the project immediately and spend Rs 5 crore by next March, we will have to withdraw the whole scheme as the Centre will not make the subsequent payments,” Bhattacharya told The Telegraph. The minister, who is also the SJDA chairman, put the blame squarely on the Opposition for “politicising” the issue. He was referring to the repeated demands for rehabilitation raised by his political opponents.
Observers, however, feel that the ball lies in the government’s court and lack of proper initiative by the implementing agencies is responsible for the delay.
When The Telegraph confronted SMC mayor Bikas Ghosh, he did not have a definite answer.
“We have asked the SJDA to conduct a survey on the land and submit a report. Until and unless we receive the report, we cannot give any specific answer to your queries,” Ghosh said. Contacted, SJDA sources said survey work was still on.