October 16, 2018 1:10:11 am
Allegations and counter-allegations flew on Monday as Union Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri alleged that the Delhi government had not held up its end of the bargain to partly fund the ITO Skywalk project. Puri inaugurated the skywalk, constructed by Delhi’s Public Works Department (PWD), at a ceremony where no Delhi government minister was invited. Several current and former PWD officers, however, were present at the event.
According to Puri, the initial understanding between the Centre and the Delhi government was that the former would fund 80% of the project, while the remaining 20% would be provided by the Delhi government.
“When I started reviewing pending projects, I realised a few urban mobility projects were stuck. When I asked why the Skywalk project was not started, I was told that the Delhi government didn’t give clearance for the 20% funding they were supposed to give,” Puri said. He added that the shortfall was finally met by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
The Delhi government, however, issued a strong denial and said it had released funds for the project. The government also shared a letter purportedly written to the PWD engineer-in-chief by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in May last year, which said, “I am directed to convey the administrative approval of Rs 54.84 crore and expenditure sanction of Rs 11.37 crore of expenditure finance committee… approved and sanctioned… for the work of construction of Skywalk and FOB (foot overbridge)…”
The Delhi government also shared a document, sent by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which stated: “PWD… will bear the balance 20% of the project cost from its own sources, as already committed by them.” A senior official from the Ministry, however, claimed the funding may have been sanctioned by the Delhi government but it was never released to PWD. “When the project was reviewed in October last year, this shortfall was realised and DDA pitched in,” claimed the official.
However, a former PWD official privy to developments in the project claimed the funding came from the Delhi government and not the DDA.
“The Delhi government sanctioned and released funds before the Ministry approached DDA. While the DDA also said they were ready to fund the project and sanctioned the money, it was not needed or used because the Delhi government had already cleared the funding,” he said. A Delhi government spokesperson said, “We have put documents in the public domain that show Delhi government released funds. I urge the ministry to do the same.”
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