Members of the Left Front government in West Bengal were not present at the ceremony where President Pratibha Patil laid the foundation stone to mark the start of the Joka-BBD Bagh Metro Rail project, which will link more areas to the heart of Kolkata.

“I received no invitation,” Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said on Tuesday when asked if he was going to attend the programme at Joka in the outskirts of the metropolis.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has not taken kindly to the Chief Minister not being extended an invitation in violation of protocol and criticised the Railways.

The Trinamool Congress did not believe in democratic principles and such an incident would not strengthen democracy in West Bengal, State CPI(M) secretary Biman Bose said.

Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu, who received an invitation after he had left the State secretariat Writers’ Building on Tuesday, also did not attend.

Besides Trinamool chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Governor M.K. Narayanan, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee and other Congress leaders were present.

At the function, Ms. Patil had a word of praise for Ms. Banerjee and called her leadership “dynamic”.

“I would like to compliment the Indian Railways who under the dynamic leadership of Mamataji, Minister of Railways, have today undertaken this significant initiative,” Ms. Patil said.

The President strongly pitched for mass transport and transit systems in cities as growing urbanisation calls for planning ahead for the future.

“As the population of cities grow, it is essential to have mass transport and transit systems that facilitate movement within the city.

“In their absence, city dwellers would depend on private transportation leading to congestion, pollution and more fuel consumption,” she said.

Ms. Patil who is on a one-day visit to the State said in a city, a metro system is an effective system of travel, giving the people a convenient, comfortable and an affordable mode of travel.

She however cautioned that Metro construction is of a very complex nature, requiring application of several new technologies in the fields of civil, electrical, signalling and telecommunication engineering.

“It is important to take proper care at every stage from planning to execution and maintenance. Planning requires preparing work schedules and executing them in a matter that it does not disrupt normal life.

“I am also optimistic that a project such as this which is sensitive to the concerns of the local people will be completed in time and be a source of pride for all,” Ms. Patil said.

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