Claiming that the Modi government is working towards development of the hitherto neglected regions of eastern and north eastern India, Union railways and commerce minister Piyush Goyal, called upon the West Bengal government to cooperate with the Railways to help finish the metro rail projects that are held up.
At the inauguration of the first 4.9-km stretch of the East-West Metro (EW Metro), which was conceived 11 years back, Goyal said, “There are issues ranging from land acquisition and encroachment which is resulting in these projects getting delayed. In some areas, we need cooperation from the state government as well”.
In effect, Goyal asked his colleague, minister of state for environment, forest and climate change, Babul Supriyo, to help metro railways prepare a list of specific areas where such co-operation from the local government was needed and how bottlenecks could be removed.
However, metro officials chose not to invite West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee and instead invited lawmakers and ministers from her party. Offended, TMC invitees declined to attend the inauguration.
“It would have been good if they (TMC invitees) would have come today”, Supriyo said.
Goyal also asked Supriyo to review the progress of the pending 11.8-km stretch of the East-West metro railway on his behalf.
Construction work for the EW Metro was initially started in 2009, but was held back for the next three years on account of mis-alignment. Subsequently, it was in 2015 that the project could be restarted after a new alignment was approved.
Nevertheless, during the construction work last year, an aquifer ruptured during tunnelling, causing substantial damage to one of the most densely populated areas in the city and the project had to be held back. It was only after the Calcutta High Court gave its nod to tunnelling work that the project could be resumed.
Banerjee had, at the time, spearheaded the affected families’ plea and asked KMRCL - the executing agency - to compensate the affected people and rebuild damaged houses, buildings and shops.
Taking a dig at Banerjee, Goyal alleged that he failed to understand why “people in West Bengal are bereft of the benefits offered by the Centre like Ayushman Bharat and PM Kisan Yojana”.
Goyal said that while the poor and the lower middle class people across the country are benefiting from central schemes, people from West Bengal are left out.
“I hope that that the state government will allow us to implement the Central schemes benefitting people here”, Goyal said.
In fact, West Bengal has its own versions for Ayushman Bharat and PM Kisan Yojana. These are called Swasthya Sathi, aimed at providing medical aid; and Krishak Bandhu, which is targeted towards farmers.
Banerjee, an ardent opponent of the Modi government, had refused to allow these central schemes to be implemented in West Bengal reasoning that the state has its own schemes.
Goyal also chose the inaugural platform to claim that his government is working towards development of the eastern and north eastern India, which otherwise had been neglected in the past. He said that the Left Front as well as the TMC were partners in the previous UPA governments and Banerjee herself had been railways minister in the past.
“Despite support from West Bengal, there had always been lack of funds for development. However, we are committed towards development of east and north east India. Rs. 75,000 crore has been allotted in the Budget for development schemes, but we are yet to get any list from West Bengal”, Goyal said.