Mamata Banerjee launched 29 projects in West Bengal
Public money worth a little over Rs two crore has gone down the drain, courtesy railway ministry’s pomp and show. For inauguration and foundation stone laying of 68 railway projects by various railway ministers, the ministry has spent over two crores in the last four years. Documents available with the dna reveal that most of the projects launched with so much fanfare have shown dismal progress since their launch.
West Bengal alone – which gave three railway ministers in succession beginning 2009 – saw some 29 such ceremonies accounting for about more than half of the total spend at Rs1.11 crore. Incidentally, all these 29 flagging off and foundation stone laying ceremonies were done during Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s regime as railway minister between May 2009 and May 2011.
Interestingly, after Mamata became the West Bengal chief minister in May 2011, no such projects were laid or inaugurated.
A sum of Rs5 lakh was spent in March 2010 for the foundation stone laying ceremony of Kanchrapara coach factory in West Bengal. As per the RTI response, only 2.3% of the total cost of the project at Rs19.79 crore has been spent in the last two years on the project. The total cost of the project is Rs860 crore.
Similar is the fate of the Rs26.26 crore nursing college and hospital project of railways at Majerhat, on which the ministry spent Rs seven lakh for foundation ceremony in June 2010. A mere Rs8 lakh have been spent on the project and the physical progress on the project is ‘zero’, as per the RTI reply. The office of the chief medical director, said in its response, “The architectural and structural drawing and design is under process.”
New line projects are in a shambles as zones across the country are facing lack of resources. Out of a total of Rs9,363 crore to be spent on ten new line projects launched during 2009-2011, the actual deployment is less than 10% at Rs847 crore. In case of four new line projects, only preliminary activities have yet been taken up. One project has been completed and the physical progress in others ranges between 3.7% and 34.47%.
The foundation for the Rs 3,380.58 Sivok-Rangpo new line project was laid in 2009 by the vice- president Hamid Ansari and the then railway minister Mamata Banerjee and the expenses of the ceremony were billed on railway PSU, Ircon International Ltd. Only preliminary activity has yet been done and the ministry has spent a mere Rs102 crore. Being asked about the delay and, the Railway Ministry said, “There is no delay. The projects will be completed in the coming years subject to availability of resources.”
Railways past records, meanwhile, show that project delay and cost escalation are routine. Some of the route expansion and line expansion projects launched in late 90s are still not complete and have seen ten-fold cost escalation.