ROADS WALK THE PRIVATE PATHWAY 

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By BY TAMAL SENGUPTA in Calcutta
  • Published 18.03.01
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Calcutta, March 18 :    Calcutta, March 18:  The privatisation juggernaut rolls on, now hitting the streets of Calcutta. In a departure from the past, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to engage private companies and agencies for the repair and maintenance of major city roads. Some may well turn into toll roads in the near future. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Sunday that this was the first step in the bid to encourage private-sector involvement in basic infrastructure. The Corporation has already agreed in principle to consider proposals from private companies and agencies to raise funds on their own to meet the expenses for the repair and maintenance of roads. This includes raising funds from parking lots and billboard sites for maintenance of the roads, and even introduction of toll tax on arterial roads. "We will have to take the consent of the state government before allowing these companies to introduce toll tax, but I don't think any amendment of existing Corporation rules will be required, " said Mukherjee. According to the mayor, the Corporation is currently engaged in dialogue with a number of private companies in this regard. "Sooner or later, we had to do something like this, as the Corporation is facing an acute financial crisis," explained Mukherjee. "Many private companies have agreed to repair and maintain major city roads. Some of them have also said they would take special care of roads with tram tracks," said Mukherjee. The ball has been set rolling with the Corporation entrusting The Kenilworth hotel with repair and maintenance of Little Russel Street. Member, mayor-in-council in charge of roads, Anup Chatterjee, said the deal with The Kenilworth had been finalised. "They will soon start the work and we will be there to assist them," Chatterjee added. N.K.Guha, personnel manager of the hotel, confirmed that everything would be done "in consultation with the Corporation". "We are holding talks with the Sahara group and other big houses for maintenance and repair of arterial roads like Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Chittaranjan Avenue, Mahatma Gandhi Road and Southern Avenue," said Chatterjee. The Corporation spends Rs 50 crore every year on road maintenance and the cost is rising fast. "Calcutta has a road length of about 1,500 km. Moreover, there are 250 km of kutcha roads in the city which we have to maintain, too. No less than 1,160 Corporation personnel are engaged in road repair and maintenance... So, it's only natural that we involve private companies and agencies," Chatterjee said.