CM’s new drive: re-launch of launch

To attract voters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections,the Left Front government in Bengal has gone on a foundation stone-laying spree.

Written by Madhuparna Das | Kolkata | Published:March 9, 2009 2:38 am

In February alone,Buddha laid foundation stones for nine projects worth around Rs 15,000 crore

To attract voters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections,the Left Front government in Bengal has gone on a foundation stone-laying spree. By the time,the election schedule was announced and the moral code of conduct came into force,Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had already attended a plethora of such ceremonies.

In February alone,Bhattacharjee laid foundation stones for nine projects worth around Rs 15,000 crore. The projects range from big-budget Light Rail Transit System (LRTS) to small ones like remodelling of Kumartuli.

Most of the projects had been actually announced nearly five years ago and had been lying in backburner since then. But with elections round the corner,the government seemed to have retrieved the cobwebbed project files to make fresh announcement with additional fund.

For instance,Bhattacharjee laid the foundation stone for the much-hyped LRTS project of the state transport department without making it clear how the government will be able to manage to get Rs 4,500 crore for the project. Interestingly,the foundation stone of the project was laid in a city-hotel on February 18,as the plot for the project site is yet to be earmarked.

The first proposal for the monorail project was submitted in 1994-95 by Mukund group but the proposal was then rejected. Again a little modified one,the LRTS project was mooted in 2004 and was announced by the state government. The state government had then promised that the project will be completed in the nest five years. However,since then no forward movement has been made. Significantly,this time also,the state government announced the project sans a detailed project report (DPR) and the fund arrangement.

The case is not much different in Rs 27 crore-remodelling of Kumartuli project. A very small project compared to LRTS,this too has been repackaged and presented to the electorates of the state.

Bhattacharjee spoke about the upgradation of Kumartuli,the hub of state’s artisans,at a rally in 2000. But very soon it the government forgot about it. Five years later,in 2005,the state government made an outline of the project and also received funds from the Centre for it. The state government promised to complete the Kumartuli project by 2006.

However,since then the project failed to get a jumpstart as the executing agency,the Kolkata Metropolitan development Authority (KMDA),could not rehabilitate the artisans.

In 2007 and 2008,the announcement for the project was made. Yet again,Bhattacharjee laid the foundation stone on February 28 this year. Significantly,a KMDA official said that the agency is yet to start the tendering process for the project.

Similar is the tale of the Rs 5,000 crore East-West Metro corridor project,which has been in pipeline since 2004 but the foundation stone was laid on February 22.

“The rehabilitation plan of people who will be affected because of the laying of tracks for the East-West Metro Corridor project is yet to be chalked out by the state government. The survey for determining that how many people will be affected by the project is still on,” said Bimal Sing,chairman,borough VI.

Bhattacharjee also flagged off the Rs 34.25 billion steel plant project of Shyam Steel in Purulia on February 15,though the state has been able to provide only 74 acres of land of the total 1,265 acres required for the project. “We have been asked by the state to launch the project as soon as possible,though we are yet to get the required land for starting it. We have been asked by the state that we would get land in two phases. We were supposed to get 600 acres of land in the first phase and rest in the second phase. However,we have got 74 acres yet,” said spokesperson of the Shyam steel.

In several cases,it was found that the state even went ahead to inaugurate the half-done projects in order to beat the model code of conduct imposed by the Election Commission. As an example,Bhattacharjee inaugurated the incomplete West Bengal State University (WBSU) in Barasat and Rabindra Bhawan,a half done auditorium in Howrah all in the month of February.

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