The objections levelled by the Planning Commission to deny permission to execute the Kochi metro-rail project as a joint venture between the State and Central Governments are deplorable, M. Vijayakumar, the Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Railways has said.

He was reacting to the stand taken by the Commission on Monday, which is diametrically opposite to the decision taken by it over a year ago in which it had given the nod for the project on the lines of the Delhi metro-rail.

The Commission had on Monday reportedly objected to the Central Government extending financial support to the State for the project. The Union Finance Ministry too had earlier objected to the State Government's proposal, despite the Union Urban Affairs Ministry, the State Government and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation demanding that the project be implemented with Central help.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Vijayakumar said that the Commission's suggestion to rope in private players to execute the project is unfeasible in Kochi.

Citing the fate of the Hyderabad metro-rail project, he said that it is suffering inordinate delays because the private firm which was given a stake in the project ran into trouble.

“It could not execute the venture despite 250 acres of prime land being handed over to it to raise capital for the project. There is not even two acres of Government land that could be spared similarly, in Kochi.”

He said that Prime Minister must intervene in the issue, since only the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs can overrule decisions of the two Central agencies that opposed the project. “The State Government did all that is possible to obtain sanction for the project. We even set apart Rs. 50 crores in the budget for the preliminary works and are willing to earmark more for acquiring land. The Union Ministers from the State must pressurize the Centre so that the project that would ease traffic snarls in Kochi becomes a reality as soon as possible,” he said.

Under the Centre-State joint-venture scheme proposed by the State, the Centre and State would each pool in 25 per cent of the total project cost, while the balance 50 per cent would be raised as loan from an international financial agency.

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