Kolkata Metro cricis – JICA Promises funds

KOLKATA: The Kolkata underwater East-West Metro Corridor connecting Salt Lake to Howrah is all set to get a momentum. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has given the assurance of keeping on funding the 15-km-long Metro project, worth R4.874 crore.

The Japanese funding agency had threatened to pull out of the city’s dream project because of the inordinate delay by the implementing agency, Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation, to claim the funds sanctioned by it. JICA had also set a June 30 (Sunday) deadline for the Centre to resolve the funding issue, failing which it said it would withdraw.

“We hope the crisis will blow over soon. The agency recently gave us a verbal assurance that it would fund the project. We’re just waiting for their written confirmation in the matter,” HK Sharma, managing director of the KMRC, told RailNews.

“Following their letter threatening to pull out, the ministry of finance recently met representatives of JICA and KMRC. The ministry assured them that the crisis relating to delays in implementing the project would be resolved,” Sharma added.

Begun in 2008, the project is only about 30% complete.

Apart from the JICA threat, the project crossed another legal hurdle hardly couple of days ago. With Calcutta High Court passing an order on Thursday upholding land acquisition by the state transport department in the Bowbazar area, work on the East-West Metro project that got entangled in a legal hassle is all set to gain momentum.

“Not only are they miffed at the delay in claiming the loan, but they’re also unhappy at the proposed change in the alignment of the project,” a senior KMRC official said.

The project seemed to have become a casualty of the political slugfest between the Congressled UPA-II and Trinamool Congress-led state governments. Earlier, the urban development ministry and state government had a 50:50 stake in the project.

Last August, under pressure from the TMC, a key UPA ally at that time-and whose government in Bengal was staring at an acute financial crisis – 74% stake was transferred to the railway ministry. The UD ministry retained 26%. TMC leader Mukul Roy was railway minister at the time but, with the TMC’s exit from UPA-II, the Railways turned cold to the project. It allocated only R100 crore for the project this fiscal against a requirement of R1,000 crore. It has also not kept any provision for claiming JICA loans.