Firhad blames Rlys, Metro authorities for delays in East-West Metro rail project

KOLKATA, 27 MAY: The state Urban Development Minister today blamed a lack of “initiative” from the Railways and metro authorities for delays in the East-West Metro Rail Project.

“An official from the Railways has been appointed for the project. But, unfortunately, the present metro authorities or rather the railway authorities are not taking the initiative and hence some of the works are getting delayed,” said Mr Firhad Hakim, on the sidelines of an Indian Chamber of Commerce conference at the Taj Bengal.

Mr Hakim also blamed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for delays in NH-34 road project, saying Central government officials are not doing enough to solve land acquisition problems.

“The land problem can be solved,” he said. “The National Highways Authority of India doesn’t have the willpower to do that. Just by writing a letter you don’t solve the problem.”

Mr Hakim said NHAI needs to meet with local authorities and people, and the state government won’t be involved in forcibly taking any land.

Mr Rohit Kumar Singh, joint secretary for highways at the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, said it isn’t true that NHAI isn’t trying to solve infrastructure bottlenecks and problems with land acquisition.

“Land is a state subject,” he said, adding “the state government has to come forward to help us. I fully sympathise with West Bengal and Kerala because of the population density being very high, it is very difficult and a sensitive issue to part with the land.”

Mr Singh said there are solutions, like using new technologies, which could help solve land acquisition problems.

Mr Singh also told the gathering of businessmen that highway development projects across India have been stalled since 2011-12, and said it was now a “time to introspect” on necessary changes to the procedures and contracts.

He listed some measures that have recently been discussed, including plans for a mechanism to measure regularly traffic volume on roads so that companies will have more accurate predictions for traffic flow when they bid for a project.

The Cabinet Committee on Investment, which was set up in January to speed up infrastructure projects, also decided last week that all environmental clearances for projects have to be given within a certain time period, he also said.

Officials are also trying to work out ways to deal with a lack of equity in the market, and looking at the need for “exit strategies” in contracts so that after building a road, a company which specialises just in construction can sell off the project to a company which might be better suited to maintaining it.