कोलकाता Kolkata (KOAA): The stalled Noapara-Baranagar-Dakshineswar Metro has a new contractor whom the railways must pay Rs 130 crore extra because nobody else would touch a project being held hostage by illegal settlements.
Simplex Infrastructures Ltd bid for and bagged the contract last month on its own terms after the railways decided to get work started in sections where encroachment isn’t a problem.
But nobody has a clue yet how to remove the 500-odd illegal shanties on the Noapara-Baranagar stretch that has paralysed the project for four years and forced the exit of the previous two contractors.
Sources said Simplex’s Rs 329-crore bid was high even after accounting for time lost and other cost-escalation factors. Given the history of the project, Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd chose not to haggle.
“The contract was awarded to Simplex last month because there was no other bidder. Other companies didn’t show interest as they know the encroachments cannot be removed,” a senior official said.
The first contractor for the Noapara-Dakshineswar line was Senbo-Tantia, which quit in 2010 over the administration’s failure to remove the settlements.
A joint venture between the Consolidated Construction Consortium Limited (CCCL) and SAM India filled the void the same year with a Rs 199-crore bid, around Rs 18 crore more than Senbo-Tantia’s. The consortium quit in 2013 after waiting almost three years for the shanties to be shifted from the project path. Barely 18 per cent of the Metro link has been completed since 2010.
The Noapara-Baranagar-Dakshineswar Metro is one among several infrastructure projects in Calcutta stalled or delayed by land logjams caused by the Trinamul government’s unwillingness to evict even illegal settlers. The list includes the East-West Metro and the Parama-Park Circus flyover.
Chennai-based CCCL, contracted to build a maintenance depot for the East-West Metro in Salt Lake’s Central Park, had exited the Noapara-Dakshineswar Metro in July 2013 after RVNL, the implementing agency for the 4.47km route, terminated the contract citing “non-performance”.
“The timeframe for the project was 30 months, which was later extended by another 20 months because RVNL had failed to hand over land. The extension was awarded without imposing any fine, which proves that we were not at fault,” a source in the company, which is also involved in the Chennai Metro project, said.
The first tender in 2010 had attracted bids from six infrastructure companies, including Larsen & Toubro, ITD-ITD Cem and Senbo-Tantia JV.
Senbo-Tantia won the bid for Rs 181.29 crore but left the project soon after. “It apparently quit because of the unavailability of land,” a railway official said.
A fresh tender towards the end of 2010 brought five bids.
“Work was to start between Noapara and Baranagar after we came into the picture, but the 500-odd hutments couldn’t be removed. It was impossible even to do a survey because of the law and order problems,” a source in the Chennai-based company said. “RVNL should have invited bids after getting possession of the land.”
Railway officials said the Left Front government had promised to rehabilitate the settlers and free the land required for the Metro project but didn’t fulfil its commitment. In 2011, the Trinamul Congress came to power but the project’s luck didn’t change. “The land belongs to the railways, so the state government didn’t have to acquire anything. It merely had to remove the illegal settlers,” a railway official said.
Several companies have either withdrawn from or demanded cost escalation for projects in town because the state government hasn’t handed over land or removed encroachments.
Gammon had refused to work on an encroached stretch of the East-West Metro in Salt Lake’s Duttabad while Larsen & Toubro exited the Barasat-Airport-Noapara project in 2013 over not being handed the required land.
Shapoorji Palonji Group owned AFCONS moved court for not being able to start work on the East-West Metro between Howrah Maidan and Central.
Sources said it would be difficult to evict the illegal settlers blocking the Noapara-Baranagar-Dakshineswar Metro route. “The government’s policy is not to forcibly evict people. We have had discussions with the settlers, who were issued ration cards by the erstwhile government. We are trying to find a way,” a senior official said.
FIRST BID: 2010
Won by: Senbo-Tantia
Cost: Rs 181 crore (approx)
Status: Stalled by encroachment
SECOND BID: 2010
Won by: CCCL-SAM
Cost: Rs 199 crore (approx)
Status: Stalled by encroachment
THIRD BID: 2014
Won by: Simplex
Cost: Rs 329 crore (approx)
Status: Work to start in sections where there is no encroachment