Mumbai

‘No infra project will be halted’

Taking action: Uddhav Thackeray addresses the press.

Taking action: Uddhav Thackeray addresses the press.  

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Chief Minister announces decision after four-hour-long review meeting

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced that not a single infrastructure project in the State would be halted after reviewing all ongoing projects at a four-hour-long meeting at Mantralaya on Tuesday evening.

“No project will be halted. However, the priority of projects will be decided based on available funds, which will ensure that common people are benefited,” said Mr. Thackeray.

The infrastructure projects on which presentations were made on Tuesday included the Mumbai Metro, the Navi Mumbai airport, the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi Mahamarg, and the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link.

Earlier on Tuesday, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and senior Cabinet minister Chhagan Bhujbal had said the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project was like a white elephant, hinting that the project was neither viable nor beneficial to Maharashtra.

Since taking over as the Chief Minister, Mr. Thackeray has ordered a review of the financial viability of all ongoing infrastructure projects, including the bullet train. “This is a standard procedure of any new government and there is nothing wrong. We have not ordered the stay of any project. However, we feel that the bullet train project is nothing but a white elephant,” said Mr. Bhujbal. Shiv Sena minister Eknath Shinde also clarified that reviewing projects does not mean putting a stop to them.

In his first press conference after proving his majority in the Assembly, Mr. Thackeray said he had sought a status report on the financial condition of the State. He had said all ongoing infrastructure projects would be categorised on the basis of priority and urgency. The review of the financial condition will involve taking a look at the debt of the State, which according to the last Budget presented by former finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar is around ₹4.71 lakh crore.

‘₹4.71-lakh crore debt’

Senior cabinet minister Jayant Patil on Tuesday said the loan against the State is much more. “The State’s debt is ₹4.71 lakh crore. The debt for ongoing infrastructure projects is ₹2 lakh crore. We are reviewing which projects are important for the State’s development and whether projects like the bullet train can be taken up at a later stage,” said Mr. Patil, adding that the viability of the bullet train project, whose cost is pegged at ₹1.08 lakh crore, will be reviewed.

Of the 508.17-km-long bullet train corridor, 155.76 km will be in Maharashtra, 348.04 km in Gujarat and 4.3 km in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The Narendra Modi government has set the deadline of completing the project by August 15, 2022, when India marks 75 years of Independence. The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), the implementing agency for executing the project, is a joint venture between the Central government and the participating State governments. The authorised share capital of NHSRCL is ₹20,000 crore, with shareholding of the Central government, Gujarat government and Maharashtra government in the ratio of 50:25:25 respectively.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya alleged that the State government by mulling to place a stay on infrastructure projects worth ₹2 lakh crore was sending a message to contractors to surrender before it. Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant welcomed the review of the bullet train project, which he termed ill-planned and costly at a time when cheaper air flights are available between two cities.

The State government, while stressing that no infrastructure project has been stayed, is moving ahead with a proposal to declare an absolute farm loan waiver, a promise made by all three parties in the coalition government during their poll campaign. A senior official from the finance department said that the State does not lack funds to implement the loan waiver. “All depends on priority. We have a pool of resources and when necessary we can shell out money for the loan waiver. It is up to the government to decide how and when to do it,” said the official.

Mr. Patil said people are unhappy with the previous government’s loan waiver scheme. “We are working on how to provide relief to farmers affected by unseasonal rains and floods,” he said. Mr. Thackeray on Sunday said the government is firm on giving unconditional loan waiver to farmers.

(With PTI inputs)

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Printable version | Dec 11, 2019 8:21:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/no-infra-project-will-be-halted/article30153729.ece

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