Maharashtra, Centre spar over Pune Metro

पुणे Pune: The Pune metro rail project has once again become the focus of controversy, this time over its launch. The state government wants to go ahead with the project, while the Centre wants to scrutinize the proposal and seek opinions on opting for underground metro.

Immediately after chief minister Prithviraj Chavan asked the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to start work on the metro by conducting the groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday, the BJP-led NDA government has shown a red signal to the project. Rao Inderjit Singh, minister of state for planning (independent charge), who was in the city on Sunday, said that the Union government will scrutinize the proposal before issuing funds.

Singh’s statement came after city MP and BJP leader Anil Shirole apprised him about the metro project and insisted that the government should not approve it in its present form. “Shirole has given me detailed information about the project and has also told me that citizens and experts want an underground (as opposed to elevated) metro in the city. The metro proposal seems to have been drafted to earn profits. But the Centre will ensure that citizens’ money is not misused,” Singh told BJP workers.

Shirole told that rectifying mistakes in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) report was a must before implementation. “Experts have pointed out flaws in the report. We are not against the metro project, but we are against it in its current form. The city should have an underground metro because it is a more sustainable form of transport than the elevated metro. World over, cities are opting for underground metro transport, which is environment friendly,” he said.

He insisted that opinions from various experts should be taken before taking a final call. The BJP’s strong opposition to the project comes after the CM, who was in city on Saturday, said that the work should started immediately and that the state government was prepared to support the project.

Meanwhile, civic officials fear that if the Union government decides to go for the underground metro, the actual implementation will be delayed and will result in a heavy financial burden on the civic body, the state and the Centre.

Last October, the state government had decided to go ahead with the metro rail development in the city. The cabinet revised the completion deadline for the first phase from 2014 to 2021. The DMRC report had estimated that the project would be completed by May 30, 2014. The revised cost estimate for the project was pegged at Rs 10,183 crore.