Double-deal bridge ache

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By Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 2.08.06
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Calcutta, Aug. 2: One project but two suitors.

The Bengal government is pinning hopes on its persuasive skills and economic wisdom to convince a Japanese consultant that it should steer clear of a bridge plan so that the Salim Group can execute the project.

On Monday, the government had signed an agreement with Salim for the Raichak-Kukrahati bridge, though Jaica, the Japanese consultant, has started a feasibility study on the same project in the hope of eventually bagging it.

Earlier this year, the pubic works department (PWD) had singed an agreement with Jaica for carrying out the study. The government had approached the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to fund the construction of the Rs 2,000-crore bridge over the Hooghly river.

“We will have to explain to the Japanese agency that it is a matter of economics. A soft loan from the JBIC would have required a clearance from the Centre. Also, we would have had to repay the loan, whereas the Salim Group is going to build the bridge for us free of cost,” commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen said.

The 2-km bridge will connect Raichak to Kukrahati and will reduce travel time to Haldia by almost an hour.

According to the agreement signed by principal secretary P.K. Agarwal with the Japanese consultant, the Rs 2-crore study was scheduled to wind up by September next year.

The PWD, acting as a facilitator, had provided the Japanese agency an office at Purta Bhavan in Salt Lake and a site office in Haldia.

PWD minister Kshiti Goswami said the consultant is peeved. “Jaica was conducting the study with the hope that they would get to implement the project. Now they’re asking us what they should do.”

The minister warned that going back on the contract with the Japanese would be a loss of face for the government. “The JBIC is a reputable agency and it might not consider us for other projects in future.”