West Bengal government goes unrepresented at the function

Growing urbanisation in a century in which cities are likely to be the dominant human habitats calls for planning ahead by focusing on issues of urban management and urban governance, President Pratibha Patil said here on Wednesday.

Speaking at the foundation-laying ceremony for the Metro line between Joka in the south-western fringe of Kolkata and BBD Bagh, the central business district, Ms. Patil observed that as the population of cities grow “it is essential to have mass transport and transit systems that facilitate movement within the city.” The new Metro line will boost the existing network, she added.

The event, in which Governor M.K. Narayanan, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee were among those present on stage, was not without controversy.

Eight leaders of the Trinamool, including six Union Ministers from West Bengal, shared the dais. But the State's Left Front government went unrepresented. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had not been invited.

On future plans for the Metro, the President expressed her happiness that further extensions of the Metro had been sanctioned. Currently, it covers 22.34 km.

“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 manner that it does not disrupt normal life,” she said, even as she was optimistic “that a project such as this which is sensitive to the concerns of the locals will be completed in time and be a source of pride for all.”

Ms. Patil also hoped that the “role of the Railways in inclusive development and integration” would be visible in the city's Metro.

The project, one of the four approved by the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, would extend the Metro network to 81.22 km at an estimated cost of Rs.12,000 crore, Mr. Mukherjee said.

“This will go a long way in easing the city's problem of [traffic] congestion.”

There will be no forcible acquisition of land for the project, a stretch of which would be on an elevated corridor and the remaining underground, said Ms. Banerjee.

It will cover a distance of 16.72 km covering 13 stations. The project cost is Rs.2,619.02 crore.

There were plans to connect the suburbs in the north as well as the south of the city to greater Kolkata.

This project testifies that “if there is a will there is a way,” she added.