Change of Alignment: Hyderabad Metro Rail project likely to land in Legal Quagmire

हैदराबाद Hyderabad (HYD): The TRS government’s proposal to change the alignment of Hyderabad metro rail project is likely to land in a legal quagmire.

The proposal is contrary to the affidavit filed in the high court by Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMRL) which said it was not advisable to change the design of the project sidestepping the detailed project report (DPR).

Moreover, if the government insists on diverting the alignment to save the livelihood of the traders of Sultan Bazar, the move is likely to provide ammunition to the traders in Ameerpet who have already moved the high court complaining that HMRL changed the alignment in the stretch between Greenlands and Jubilee Hills Check Post in order to save properties of certain influential individuals at the cost of their own properties.

“We welcome the government’s sympathy to the traders of Sultan Bazar. But, we expect the same sympathetic gesture towards us too. After all, we are not stepchildren of the government,” said A N Shankar, spokesperson of Greenlands Ameerpet Madhuranagar Yousuguda Srikrishnanagar Join Action Committee (GAMYS JAC).

“If the alignment is changed at Sultan Bazar, then we will bring this to the court’s notice. And we will move the high court with a fresh petition,” Shankar added.

The HC has reserved its judgment on the case filed by the GAMYS JAC after staying the works in the Ameerpet area.

Interestingly, the high court rejected the plea to stay the works at Sultan Bazar citing ‘no merit’ in the petition filed by the traders from that area.

“The government appears determined to help traders in Sultan Bazar even when the court refused to stay the works there. If this happens, then the case of traders in Ameerpet will only get strengthened. The government will then have to consider their demands too,” noted a lawyer who is closely following the case. There is probably bigger trouble in store for the government in the affidavit filed in the high court by NVS Reddy, managing director of HMRL, wherein he said, while refuting the charges of the GAMYS JAC, the alignment had never been changed and it could not be changed even in the future.

“It is submitted that the selection of routes and alignment of all the three metro rail corridors was done by DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) with a lot of care and after conducting techno-economical surveys, traffic studies etc.

As mentioned therein, traffic OD (origin and destination) patterns; location work centres and CBDs (Central Business Districts) road right of way ( RoW) play an important role in the selection of metro rail routes and finalization of alignment,” NVS Reddy has said in the affidavit.

Citing the delay factor caused due to change in the alignment, NVS Reddy said in the affidavit, “at 13 per cent interest rate, a day’s delay in project implementation increases the project cost by Rs. 5 crore a day.”

While the project cost which was originally estimated at Rs.14,132 crore is understood to have already reached Rs 20,000 crore due to various factors including delay in kick-starting the works, inflation, and fluctuation in interest rates, NVS Reddy’s affidavit would prove costly for the government if it goes ahead with its proposal to change the alignment at the Sultan Bazar area and near the legislative assembly building.

“The change in alignment comes with various factors including fresh land acquisition and survey which would not only come with a price, but also result in escalation of the project cost due to delays,” said C Ramachandraih, a professor at Center of Socio-economic Change ( CES) who is spearheading a civil society struggle against the HMRL. He said the cost factor includes the force majeure clause that the operator Larson &Toubro might invoke according to which the government has to pay penalty on account of effecting the change of the course of the project which is estimated at Rs. 6000 crore.

Officials in the municipal administration & urban development (MA&UD) said the government was still examining the proposal to divert the metro alignment to take it behind the assembly building.

They said that the Sultan Bazaar stretch and Mozamjahi Market stretch of the project would not be touched. The route will be changed from Badi Chowdi to Tilak Park to the northeastern side of Women’s College in Kothi where it will be connected to Chaderghat. “The alternative plan has almost been finalized and we are waiting chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s return from his Singapore visit on August 25,” the officials added.

According to N V S Reddy, “The diversion is minimal and it will not affect our original alignment or the commuters on the route.”

The earlier proposal had a linear direction wherein the metro rail went straight along the road and touched all high traffic zones from Lakdikapul, assembly, traffic police office to the Nampally stretch. There are many government offices along the route and the diversion must be able to ensure that it caters to this traffic.