LUCKNOW: Exactly a week after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi inaugurated key railway projects in Sonia Gandhi’s constituency, the party president added more than 50 road projects, bank branches, one FM station and a rail project between Rae Bareli and Akbarpur, to the district’s already burgeoning gifts kitty.
Gandhi, who landed at Fursatganj airport on Monday morning, laid the foundation stone for more than 50 road projects under the Centrally-funded Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana as part of the UPA-II’s rural road connectivity endeavour. Sonia also inaugurated a water treatment plant supplying potable water to 110 villages, FM Rainbow, available at a frequency of 102.8 mhz, to inform and entertain people, and 13 new branches of United Bank of India in Harchandpur block.
Though the bounty, worth several crores also includes the Rae Bareli-Maharajganj-Akbarganj railway line, connecting Rae Bareli to Faizabad through the shortest railway route, the Congress did not seem to have deemed it fit to invite Faizabad MP and UPCC chief Nirmal Khatri.
During the day-long visit, Gandhi did not address a public meeting; she did, however, interact with people of the constituency at some places. A day before her arrival, farmers blocked the Lalganj-Unnao railway track and demanded jobs for their family members at the Rail Coach factory in Lalganj, as promised by Sonia during her earlier visits. The jobs, were to be in exchange of land for the factory, dubbed as Sonia’s dream project.
The farmers claimed that of about 1,340 families, who gave their land for the project, no job has been given to 128 families. Similar protests have been staged before Sonia’s previous visits to the constituency too. Back then, officials of the railway ministry and representatives from Sonia’s office met and took their applications. No discussions in this regard, though, were held on Monday.
(The expert panel appointed…)
NEW DELHI: The expert panel appointed by the Cabinet to examine bailout demands of highway developers has called for a traffic survey on 47 highways to ascertain the veracity of developers’ claims of financial stress due to lower toll revenues.
The group led by C Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, has asked the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to check variations in traffic trends from the estimates forecast at the time of bidding for the highway development projects as a precursor to considering a bailout.
The highways authority is likely to complete the study this week, after which a consultant will determine the traffic trends and its findings will be sent to the highways ministry, officials aware of the development said.
The panel was set up earlier this month after the government had in October suggested a body headed by Rangarajan to decide the structure of the premium rescheduling policy whose final decision would be implemented by the highways ministry after Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s approval.
Officials said concessionaires had argued that a decline in traffic along highways had put them under stress because of which construction and debt servicing were proving difficult. The committee and the highways ministry now wants to check whether traffic has declined and if this could lead to any stress.
“The NHAI is surveying the traffic across 47 highway stretches. The data collected will then be sent to a consultant which will study past and present traffic data to analyse the trends and its findings will be sent to the highways ministry. Based on this, the committee is likely to make a decision on what parameters could be used to determine stress,” an official said.
There was some confusion over the stretches to be included, an official said, explaining the delay in the survey even as the request came in early this month. Since 2012-13, the highways ministry and NHAI have been struggling to find takers for multiple public-private partnership (PPP) projects. The government could award only 1,116-km last fiscal against the target of 9,500 km and only one PPP project has been awarded this year.
The highways ministry, which has put its plans for awarding PPP projects this year on hold till the market scenario improves, expects to kick-start several stalled projects with its premium restructuring proposal.
Niraj Chinchkhede,TNN |
AURANGABAD: The AMC on Thursday said it would construct the road from Lemon Tree hotel to Jalgaon T Point that is 2.5 km long with a new technology called ‘white topping’.
Sena group leader in the AMC Sushil Khedkar on Thursday said the civic body is introducing the technology for the first time in the city. “A proposal worth Rs 3 crore for the construction of the road was already approved by the general body about six or seven months back. But the proposal was for a simple tar road. Now, however, we have decided to develop it in this new way. The civic body will put in additional costs to improve the quality of the road,” he said.
Executive engineer in the civic body Silkander Ali said road built using the white topping technology were more durable as compared to the others. “White topping technology is quite common in cities like Mumbai and Pune. Roads do not develop potholes for more than 15 years after construction,” he said.
In addition to this, Ali said the civic body would construct the 1.8 km road stretch between Central Naka and Jalgaon road via SBH and N5 water tank using the same new technology. “The corporation will use Rs 30 crore .The job will be completed in the current financial year,”
Many overbridge and road projects in the city are becoming non-starters as the State government and the Kochi Corporation are scouting for funds to acquire land for the projects. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) funds only cover the projects’ construction cost.
On an average, a two-lane overbridge can be built for less than Rs.15 crore. But land acquisition and rehabilitation costs within the city may work out to around Rs.100 crore, which is around seven times the project’s cost.
The cost of land acquisition for a two-lane overbridge proposed at Atlantis works out to over Rs.100 crore. Similar is the case with Pachalam overbridge. Both the projects are hanging fire for over a decade, causing hardships to commuters. In the case of Thammanam-Pullepady Road, the cost of building a tarred road is just over Rs.20 crore, while expenditure for acquiring land at 18 metre width works out to over Rs.100 crore. The project cost for Goshree-Mamangalam Road is over Rs.23 crore, while widening the narrow stretch into four or two lane will cost more.
Chairman of the corporation’s town planning committee and former Mayor K.J. Sohan suggested narrowing down of four-lane bridges to two-lane wherever possible so that land acquisition is minimal. “Cost of land acquisition can further be brought down if bridges are built at 1:20 gradient – an elevation of a metre for every 20 metre distance,” he said.
The gradient as per JNNURM norms is 1:30, which would increase the bridge’s length. Though this specification ensures a less-steep bridge, the area of land to be acquired increases.
“Dilution of norms might result in denial of JNNURM funds. Even then, the financial liability on State government and the civic agency concerned would be much lesser for each project,” he said.
Vehicles move along NH31D at Assam More in Jalpaiguri on Monday. Picture by Biplab Basak
Jalpaiguri, : Over 150 families near Jalpaiguri town have volunteered to give their plots to the National Highways Authority of India for four-laning of NH31D, a key project in north Bengal that has not taken off because of land acquisition protests.
The gesture from the villagers is unusual as in several other places in Jalpaiguri district, villagers have blocked land acquisition demanding higher compensation.
A delegation representing 153 families of Raninagar, on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri town just off the highway, today submitted a memorandum at the NHAI project office in Siliguri, requesting that their land be acquired immediately as they want the highway project to take off.
The residents, who have formed a Jami Ditey Icchuk Byaktider Committee (committee of people who want to give land), said some “outsiders” had stopped officials when they had gone to Raninagar this month when they had to take land measurements for acquisition.
“On November 10, employees from the district land and land reforms department visited our plots, measured the portion that they would require for the four-lane project and were about to make valuation when some outsiders came, protested and stopped their work. The officials were forced to leave,” said Koushik Das, the convener of the committee.
“The next day, we formed this committee as we are in favour of immediate construction of the four-lane highway which would largely help in swift transport movement and also improve the economy of the region,” Das said.
One of the residents said that if land was not acquired quickly, the residents would begin protests demanding that their plots be used for the project.
The four-laning would be done from Ghoshpukur in Siliguri to Salsalabari in Cooch Behar, a 155km stretch. According to officials, the widening of NH31D would require about 570 hectares.
The NH31D is part of the East-West Corridor from Porbandar in Gujarat to Silchar in Assam. The NH31D and NH34 are the lifelines of north Bengal. The north Bengal stretch of NH31D is the only part of the East-West Corridor where four-laning is yet to begin.
On October 29, north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb had met NHAI and panchayat representatives from Dhupguri to ease the land protest there. At that time, sources had said the problem in Dhupguri was the last land hurdle on the path of the project. But on November 13, protesters blocked Assam More, also near Jalpaiguri, and said they would not give land for the project unless they were paid four times the announced compensation.
According to government rules, land losers get compensation according to the current market price. The government may also give a solatium and a rate of interest on the compensation amount.
Today, Raninagar resident Bakul Rani Saha said because of the delay in land acquisition, the people were unable to repair their homes and shops. “Unless the portion of land required for widening the road is demarcated, we cannot repair our houses or shops. We are in a fix and the only reason for the delay is the objection raised by some outsiders who do not own the plots here,” Saha said.
Like in Assam More, people of Fatapukur and Mainaguri have also demanded more compensation.
Santosh Saha, another Raninagar resident, said: “The two-lane highway is in a pitiable condition over the past three-four years and we want the work of four-laning to commence immediately.”
D.K. Ansari, the project manager of NHAI in Siliguri, said the offer of the Raninagar residents would be discussed with Jalpaiguri district administration. “We have communicated to the district land and land reforms department in Jalpaiguri, requesting them to go ahead and acquire the land,” he said.
Officials of the land and land reforms department said they would soon start acquiring land in Raninagar.
LUCKNOW: Having undertaken project of widening of Lohia Path, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s dream project, the state Public Works Department (PWD) is all set to give it another facelift by proposing an additional flyover between PICUP and Indira Gandhi Pratishthan. This will be apart from construction of the much needed flyover on Faizabad road to connect the existing flyover to government polytechnic college. The PWD is already in the process of broadening the Lohia Path from its existing width of eight lanes to 10. Sources said this will make Lohia Path the widest road, not only in the city but also in the state. The additional two lanes come about by demolishing the once existent cycle and walking track on both sides of the Lohia Path.
Well placed PWD sources said the design of the two flyovers has been prepared and sent for state government sanction. Principal secretary, PWD, Rajnish Dubey, confirmed that the designs had been submitted and were being scrutinised.
While the one proposed between PICUP will be two-laned and stretch for a distance of around half-a-kilometer. It will divert traffic to and fro Lohia Path towards Indira Gandhi Pratishthan and the proposed new campus of the high court in Vibhuti Khand, the one at Faizabad road will divert traffic of Faizabad road to the existing L-shaped flyover constructed over government polytechnic. This way the polytechnic flyover will become Y-shaped. Presently, traffic from HAL on Faizabad road has to go underneath the flyover to move further up to Faizabad road. This creates a major traffic hurdle underneath the flyover constructed by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).
The state government had also proposed acquiring polytechnic land to widen it further and ease out the traffic congestion underneath the flyover. But that is yet to be done.
The Mayawati regime had converted part of the cycle and walking track on the 7 Km long Lohia Path into a railway over bridge (ROB). The ROB on the other side is still being worked on given the grave yard that falls on its way. PWD engineers said they would be constructing a platform over the graveyard to pave way for the ROB.
With the usage of the cycle and walking track already in question, the Akhilesh Yadav government after coming to power had decided to do away with the tracks altogether to widen the Lohia Path, which has been witnessing an ever increasing traffic growth over a period of time. The widening has been ostensibly adhered to around two malls and multiplexes situated on Lohia Path.
Mihir | New Delhi |
SUMMARY–Road transport ministry is looking at a slew of options, including a two per cent surcharge on the sale of land for residential purposes along the expressway.
To part-finance the cost of constructing the 265-km Delhi-Jaipur expressway project, the road transport ministry is looking at a slew of options, including a two per cent surcharge on the sale of land for residential purposes along the expressway.
The funds collected by way of the surcharge, according to the proposal, will be routed to the Central government and used subsequently for the purpose of constructing the expressway.
“Our estimates show that this surcharge will give us around Rs 4,700 crore, which will fund a large part of our project cost. If you exclude the cost of land acquisition, the project is estimated to cost around Rs 7,000 crore,” said a senior road transport ministry official.
He further explained that any residential project along the expressway will need entry and exit points for its traffic and this surcharge will be a payment for providing that exit to those residential colonies.
The Delhi-Jaipur expressway is the first expressway project that the Central government hopes to work on. The other expressway projects in the pipeline are the Delhi-Meerut, Mumbai-Vadodra and Eastern Peripheral expressways.
This proposal, along with others, will be discussed by an Inter-ministerial Council headed by the road secretary and have members from the finance ministry, Planning Commission and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
The other proposals include developing the expressway by funding the shortfall through a viability gap funding, allowing the company developing the project rights to collect tolls also on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway and Delhi-Jaipur highway after their concession period is over and government funding the construction of the project.
“Allowing the expressway company to collect toll on the other highway connecting Jaipur will also take care of the competing highway issue. Enabling the expressway concessionaire to collect toll on these highway should not be a problem, as we will put a clause in the bid document for Delhi-Jaipur expressway,” said the official. He added that the concession period for Delhi-Jaipur will end in 2023 and Delhi-Gurgaon is set to end by 2024.
According to current estimates, the Delhi-Jaipur expressway would not be able to break even in terms of total traffic that would use it. It is estimated that the expressway will cater to a traffic of 25,000 passenger cars daily but requires 42,000 passenger cars to break even.
The NHAI had raised a question on the viability of the project and said that it was neither feasible through toll nor through government funding. It had also said that private companies would not be interested in getting into a high-cost expressway project at this juncture.
Stanley Pinto, TNN |
MANGALORE: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will introduce a toll on the 20-km stretch between Padil and BC Road by the year end.
Though the 37-km Surathkal-BC Road stretch was constructed by the same agency- Ircon International Limited (IRCON) – two different agencies will be appointed to collect the toll and do the maintenance of the road.
The toll booths have already been erected near Brahmarakootlu for this purpose.
NHAI project director Shriram Mishra said that the toll will be introduced on the Padil-BC Road in November. “The process for issuing tenders for toll collection is already under way in Delhi,” he added.
He also indicated that the maintenance will be done by a different agency.
However, the Padil -BC Road four-lane stretch does not offer super smooth drive.
There are several bottlenecks at many places including Farangipet, Thumbe and Brahmarakootlu. This will not allow the user to drive at a speed of 80 kmph throughout.
Near Thumbe, the road has developed a big crater which is in a blind corner. This has caused several accidents.
Mishra said near Farangipet NHAI cannot provide shoulders as a fish market is located there and it cannot be shifted as the land belongs to the railways.
Regarding the blind turn near Thumbe, Mishra said the road will be repaired soon. “But the curve improvement is not possible due to non-availability of land. We took almost eight years to complete the land acquisition process for this project. It’s very easy for NHAI to straighten a road, but what can be done if there is no land available. Moreover, when if we try to straighten a curve, objections come as to why the opposite side of the land is not being acquired,” he said pointing out at the intricacies.
On the Surathkal toll booth, he said shifting the toll booth to Hejamady is under consideration. It may be recalled that the toll booth near Panambur had invited protests from the local resident.
Pavan MV & Aparajita Ray, TNN |
While the BBMP plans a Rs 400-crore Palike Bhavan to house its staff, here are two more infrastructure projects which are crawling along, and are a nightmare for residents and commuters.
Flyovers at Thanisandra, BEL Circle
The Outer Ring Road, designed to give Bangaloreans a free ride along the suburbs, is five years old and nowhere near completion. The massive project – a series of 10 connected flyovers, three underpasses and two railway bridges on a total stretch of 13.4km — has only created a multitude of problems. In the past five years, the only reality has been traffic bottlenecks, broken roads and dust pollution.
The Rs 292-crore project, implemented by the BDA, is meant to connect HSR Layout 14th Main, Agara, Iblur, Bellandur, Devarabeesanahalli, Kadubeesanahalli, Mahadevapura, Kalyan Nagar, Hennur, Veerannapalya and BEL Circle. Work started in mid-2009 and each flyover was to be done in 24 months. But most flyovers took three years.
The ones at Thanisandra and BEL Circle junctions are still unfinished. At Thanisandra, two high-tension lines parallel to the flyover and shifting of utilities is delaying the project. At BEL Circle, the road is half-dug. A PSU has refused to part with land to widen the road, say sources.
Vehicles used to move inch by inch on these roads when the flyovers were being constructed. This was also one reason why initiatives like travelling by bus and car pooling gained momentum among techie groups.
Vishwanath Seetharam | Member, outer ring road companies association
Timeline: 24 months
Status: Work going on
Mysore Road widening
It’s just 2 km from Sirsi Circle to Gali Anjaneya Temple. Work to widen this road stretch began in August 2009, and four years later, is yet to touch the finish line.
Like many other infrastructure projects, BBMP took up the project without acquiring land. Now, it is yet to acquire three properties and is grounded outside a Christian cemetery, whose authorities have declined to part with their land. Said a BBMP engineer, “Burial ground authorities have asked for alternative land. The process of finding alternative land is going on.”
The project was to be completed in 15 months. Now, the BBMP assures it will be done in a month. When started, the project cost was pegged at Rs 9 crore; the BBMP hasn’t yet calculated the cost escalation.
Construction debris litters the stretch at several places. It’s very difficult to travel on this dusty road in the mornings and evenings, when vehicular movement is heavy.
Lokesh M | Sales executive
Start: Aug 2009
Timeline: 15 months
Status: Ready next month
(AP Other way round: From the Indian point of view, opening more routes is important as it will help create a stronger political consensus for better ties. At the Integrated Check Post at Attari near Amritsar, a line of Pakistani trucks).
India and Pakistan must use the strong peace sentiment on both sides of the border to develop better trade ties
What war could ravish, commercecould bestowAnd he returned a friend, whocame a foe -Alexander Pope
The India-Pakistan relationship is a complex one, dominated by excessively polarised discourse. Over the past decade or so, one point has become evident. First, strong constituencies for peace between both countries have emerged along the border regions, be they Rajasthan-Sind or the two Punjabs. The enthusiasm with which people responded to Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), such as the Munabao-Khokhrapar train service and bus services connecting Delhi and Lahore and Amritsar-Lahore, are a reiteration of this point. It is a different matter, of course, that logistics issues have prevented both these initiatives from being a success.While in the case of the Punjab, opening up trade at the Wagah-Attari route and setting up the Integrated Check Post have got businessmen on both sides of the Radcliffe Line interested, some logistics issues persist. There is also a desire to open the Hussainiwala (Ferozepur)-Ganda Singh route, which was active before the 1971 war. This will be relevant especially in the context of the potential for petroleum trade between both countries, since the Bhatinda oil refinery, inaugurated in April 2012 by the Indian Prime Minister, is only 100 km from Hussainiwala. With the politics of Punjab being dominated by the Malwa belt, and the current Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, being an MLA from Ferozepur, support for opening up this route is only likely to increase. The leather industry, which contributes 5.4 per cent of overall export earnings, will also benefit from the same trade route as Kasur city, adjacent to Ganda Singh and 60 km from Lahore, is a hub of tanneries in Punjab.Makes business, political sense
In Rajasthan-Sind, while the train service is chugging along, trade through the Munabao-Khokhrapar route is yet to open, though there is strong support for it. This route too could come in handy for petroleum trade, since gas has been discovered at Barmer.
Opening up these two borders would make sense from the business point of view, and come in handy politically for a number of reasons. North India will benefit more through land trade vis-à-vis Pakistan.
Currently, trade is only allowed through the Wagah-Attari land route; other road links are ignored. Barki road connecting Lahore-Patti, the Kasur-Firozpur roads at the Ganda Singh border, the Sahiwal/Pakpattan road link with Fazlika, Head Sulemanki and Multan borders, have the potential to enhance Punjab-to-Punjab trade manifold.
In the Pakistan context, Ganda Singh strengthens the pro-trade constituency in Punjab. In fact recently a delegation from Indian Punjab met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was enthusiastic about the idea. Apart from this, opening up the Raj-Sind border would assuage feelings in Sind, especially for those who believe Punjab will benefit from India-Pakistan trade while other States will be left behind.
If one were to look from the Indian side, opening more routes is important since this will help create a stronger political consensus for better ties. While Punjab is already ruled by the Shiromani Akali Dal, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rajasthan too could get a BJP government in the aftermath of the December Assembly elections. In addition to this, by opening up the Rajasthan-Sind border, businessmen from neighbouring States such as Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat which are BJP-dominated would also benefit. Currently, traders from Madhya Pradesh have to go all the way to the Wagah route.
Existing as well as new markets have the potential to achieve the highest targets. The existing market, worth $13 billion, comprises smuggling and personal baggage. Therefore, the legalisation of trade would help the government of Pakistan earn revenue in the form of import duties. The key to the economic success of a country is promoting regional trade. However, Pakistan’s regional trade is less than five per cent of the total. Millions of dollars can be earned if more trade routes are opened.
Land over sea
A study carried out in 2006 estimated that over 80 per cent of firms are forced to trade through the Karachi-Mumbai sea route, even if they are located in the border station of Amritsar. Similarly, the Sind-Rajasthan border can connect Rajasthan and Gujarat with Sind, which has huge potential to enhance trade between both countries by the land route. The Munabao-Khokhrapar rail route can lessen the burden on the Karachi-Mumbai sea route, which is the most common, formal trade route between India and Pakistan. It will also save time and money as the sea route requires cargo ships to touch a third-country port before bringing in goods.
The Pakistan Army, being a strong and influential stakeholder, can be brought into the loop as it has a vested interest in the economic structure. This way, India-Pakistan business and people-to-people contact may be enhanced, and stringent visa policies may get relaxed.
(Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based columnist, and Usman Shahid, a Lahore-based journalist and researcher. )
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