Japanese firm threatens to pull out from Kolkata Metro Project

Foreign lending agency, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has threatened to pull out from the Kolkata Metro project as the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee dispensation in West Bengal have refused to bury their political differences to pave the way for the smooth construction of the country’s first underground mass transit system.

What has irked JIC A is that the 14.67 km-long project connecting Salt Lake Sect V to Howarh in Kolkata, which was sanctioned in July 2008, is moving at a slow pace — 28 per cent of the construction work has been completed so far against the target 33 per cent. It is now almost certain that it will miss its 2015 deadline.

The JICA is to lend Rs2,253 crore for the Rs4,874-crore project, the first Metro project in the country to be passing under a river (Hooghly).

“The project has problems galore. The Board for carrying out day-to-day functioning of the project is yet to be reconstituted after the project was transferred from West Bengal to the Ministry of Railways last year. Land acquisition issues have remained unresolved while funding is a huge problem,” said sources in the Union Urban Development Ministry.

Moreover, the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (KMRCL) is seeking some route re-alignment which has been strongly opposed by the JICA. The cash-starved KMRCL owes due of around Rs 170 crore to the contractors who have threatened action while Railway Ministry has allocated a meager Rs100 crore for this year. It has to release Rs1619 crore as fund cost.

Moreover, the Railway Ministry following the transfer of the project to it last year is yet to release Rs 146.5 crore to the West Bengal Government for its payment to the KMRCL.

Sources further said that as the Railway Ministry was to drive the project, the UD Ministry which has 24 per cent equity stake in the project has earmarked just Rs one lakh as pass through assistance (PTA) for 2013-14.

Sources blamed the West Bengal Government for doing nothing to push for land acquisition on a certain stretch of the proposed Howrah-Salt Lake route. (Courtesy: The Daily Pioneer)