The ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor project, which seeks to separate freight and passenger movements on railways, has hit an unexpected roadblock.
Thanks to lack of co-ordination between the Centre and state administration of West Bengal and Maharashtra, the railways is unable to disburse money to people it has acquired land from. This, despite the fact that there is no paucity of funds for the project, which is being funded by loans from the World Bank and the Japan government.
The railways has sought intervention from the highest levels of the government. As per law, if the compensation money is not paid within six months of notification, the land acquisition process would lapse.
Amidst concerns that the Rs 80,000-crore project might miss its 2017-18 deadline, the matter has reached the Prime Minister’s infrastructure monitoring group for Centre-state coordination.
Over the past six months, only Rs 12 crore out of Rs 354 crore of compensation money has been disbursed in Maharashtra. Till date, only Rs 168.5 crore of compensation money has reached the people who gave land, despite the fact that the funds to the tune of Rs 522.6 crore have been sent to the state. To compound the delay, the state has kept vacant the important posts of special land acquisition officers in Dahau, Thane and Palaghar.
Nearly 180 km of the Western arm of the freight corridor runs through Maharashtra.
In Bengal, the disbursement problem has taken a more unforeseen twist. As per documents accessed by The Indian Express, the Mamata Banerjee-led state government has refused to open joint bank accounts with the Centre to transfer the compensation amount.
Cheques to affected families are signed by joint account holders. The Land Reforms Commissioner, West Bengal has not agreed to this widely used arrangement and is insisting on a single account, Railways has told the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Disbursement of compensation is held up for want of decision on allowing opening of joint account. The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited has already transferred 10 per cent acquisition charges on the land award declared to West Bengal and will also pay 5 per cent interest monthly for any delay in payments to the project affected families,” Railways has told the Cabinet Secretariat. Chairman of Railway Board Arunendra Kumar has written many a times to Chief Secretary, West Bengal, regarding the issue.