The Mamata Banerjee government, which has faced criticisms over its land policy, on Sunday received kudos from the Union Road Transport secretary, who said his ministry has got huge support from the state over the last one year for procuring land for the highway projects in Bengal.
“In the last one year, we have got huge support from the West Bengal government with regard to land procurement for highway projects in the state,” Union Road Transport and Highways secretary Vijay Chhibber said in Kolkata.
“The state government has broadly resolved all issues pertaining to land,” he said after flagging off the trial run of a cargo vehicle under the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) sub-regional initiative for uninterrupted cargo movement.
Lauding the Mamata government, Chhibber said because of the huge support received from the Bengal government, plans have seen timely implementation. “The Union government is handicapped because we don’t have a separate department of transport. We have an omnibus ministry of road transport and highways and 95 per cent of our focus remains on the construction of roads and bridges. Thus, our interfacing with the state government to some extent is handicapped,” he added.
“We are examining the possibility of creating a department of transport under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Once this happens, it will increase our interface with states. But I must compliment the West Bengal transport department. It has done a wonderful job… I don’t think the event (the trial run) could have been been put together in such a limited time had it not been for its positive response,” Chhibber said.
“Owing to earlier delays in implementation of national highway widening and construction of new roads, many contractors had abandoned projects due to huge cost over-runs. We are in the process of bringing them back to complete the projects, The ministry is doing a handholding between contractors and lenders to ensure that these projects are completed,” said Chhibber.
He added that except for one, work in all other projects in Bengal would commence soon. Mamata, during her days in the Opposition, had led anti-land acquisition movements at Nandigram and Singur, following which the Tata Motors had shifted its small car factory to Gujarat.
Speaking on the trial run, Chhibber said: “…The objective is to carry multi-destination cargo. The same vessel will be used for transit transportation of goods and services. Moreover, customs facilitation need not necessarily be done at borders, which will be time consuming.”
About 640 km is covered by this new route via Kolkata, Dimapur, Jamuna bridge, Dhaka and Agartala. The traditional land route from Kolkata to Agartala is about 1,550 km. “The distance of 640 km will get further reduced by another 150 km once the new bridge between India and Bangladesh was completed,” said Chhibber. The vehicle that was flagged off has the facility of e-tracking.
A BBIN car rally is set to be held on November 14. After commencing from Bhubaneswar in Orissa and travelling across four countries, the rally will conclude in Kolkata on December 2. That day itself, trial run for the Kolkata-Khulna bus service would be initiated.
Chhibber said the Centre was attempting an India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) access agreement. Negotiations for this is at a preliminary stage and the final agreement is likely to be signed in March or April, 2016.
“We are developing the protocol and hope that the trial run for IMT will commence early December from Kolkata. Just like BBIN, it will have three verticals — passenger cars, buses and trucks. We want SAARC and ASEAN regions to come together through the IMT agreement,” he added.
“The project has the blessings of the three nations and the Asian Development Bank is helping us not only to get the software together but also providing us with adequate resources for development of road infrastructure that would connect these two blocks,” Chhibber said.