Koramangala residents were a relieved lot after the elevated road project from Ejipura to Kendriya Sadan got approval last year, under JNNURM scheme. The joy did not last long, as the project now has been taken off the JNNURM scheme, and will not get funds from the Centre.
Basavaraj Kabade, the executive engineer of BBMP, confirmed to Citizen Matters that this project, expected to reduce traffic congestion in Sony world Junction in Koramangala and speed up the journey to Hosur road through inner ring road, has now been cancelled by the Central government.
“About 15-20 days ago, in a letter from Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation, we were informed that the approval for the construction of the road has been withdrawn by the Central government,” he said. “All projects cleared before March 2014 under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme, but for which Additional Central Assistance could not be released by the Ministry of Finance are to be treated as not sanctioned. The new government in the Centre wants to change the name of the scheme and amend its guidelines.”
According to the Detailed Project Report, the cost projected was Rs 214 crores. In the 131st meeting of Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee (CSMC) held on February 21st, 2014, the cost was estimated around Rs 163.35 crore, including land acquisition.
The BBMP was to bear 50% of the total cost of the project. The project was even announced in BBMP budget last year. The state funded 15% of the cost and the centre was supposed to fund 35%. The first installment to be released by the Centre was Rs 14.3 crore, while total amount was Rs 57.17 crore. This 35% fund from the Centre has now been cancelled.
Projects that have financial closure should be allowed’
Nitin Seshadri, a resident of Koramangala and Member of Koramangala Task Force, says: “The government basically wants to scrap the entire JNNURM and replace it with a new scheme. But projects like these which have already received a financial closure must be allowed to be executed.” Changing basic schemes and cancelling projects with the idea of restarting them under a new scheme every time there is a new government is, he contests, “immature governance”.
“The entire process of getting this project approved took three years. Now it is has been pushed back to right where it was three years ago, he claims. “First, the new scheme has to be announced. Then whether or not the parameters of this particular project fit in with the new scheme has to be looked into. If it does, the cost of this project has to be re-estimated because by then the old estimates would be outdated. And then will be the long process of getting approvals from various committees before fresh tenders can be called out again,” he adds.
When asked if the citizen groups in Koramangala will contest the cancellation, he said, “We need some time to organise. But yes, we will approach MP Ananth Kumar in this regard.”
However, IAS officer Darpan Jain, Managing Director of KUIDFC and the Nodal officer of JNNURM, Karnataka, denies that the Eijipura- Sevadan road had received a financial closure. It is to be regarded as a financial closure only when “The approval from CSMC is followed by release of first installment”. All projects that had received financial closure will be carried on, he has assured.
‘Project can be carried out if State helps’
The lack of Central funds isn’t the end of the road for the project. When asked if the state and the BBMP together can proceed with the project, if alternate financial arrangements for the Centre’s share (35% of the project cost) can be made, either by using funds from the state treasury or by involving private players, Darpan Jain confirmed that the project can be taken up using State funds/local body funds. However it needs to be budgeted and approved by the State government.
Basavaraj Kabade agrees with Darpan Jain. “If the BBMP had enough money to bear this 35% cost as well, we could have proceeded with the project. But it does not. If the state can fund this share from its treasury, we can proceed right away. If not, we have to wait till any new scheme guidelines are announced by the centre, and then start the process of getting approval again,” says Kabade.
With only a few weeks remaining for State budget, it is not yet clear if the State intends to allocate budget for this project.
Project to be covered under Smart City scheme?
The Central government is planning to start a Smart City scheme. The JNNURM scheme that funded the Ejipura-Kendriya Sadan project is expected to be scrapped. All JNNURM projects that have not received financial closure have been scrapped, including many BWSSB underground drainage projects and roads.
Sources from the Urban Development department said that JNNURM projects sanctioned upto March 2014 have been cancelled. The projects that were given approval under transition phase prior to March 2014 were sanctioned and will be carried out. Those which were in appraisal stage have been cancelled by the new Central government.
If the State refuses to support the project, there is still hope, though it might take some more time to get tangible outcome. There are possibilities of the cancelled projects getting included in the new Smart City project, if the State government pursues it with the Centre, the official said.
Darpan Jain points that the Central government has not sanctioned any projects under the JNNURM scheme after March 2014. “It is expected to come up with a new scheme soon” he said. “Maybe the Smart city project… maybe some other scheme.. Can’t say for sure right now,” he said when asked if Smart City project will replace the JNNURM.
‘Centre wants to connect with cities directly’
Major Pramod Kapoor, another active member of Koramangala Task Force, warns against passing a judgment about the Central government before getting entire information. Before raising any protest, he says, “we need to know the rationale behind the cancellation, and what alternate plans, if any, are being considered. The present government in the Centre, I believe, understands the importance of developing sound infrastructure, and would not have cancelled the project for no good reason.”
“I’ve gathered that the Centre wants to have a direct contact with the corporations at state level to coordinate the infrastructure building activities. Plans to replace the myriad policies and schemes with a single policy that governs the entire infrastructure building activities all over the country are being considered,” he adds. He claimed that the new scheme will look into processes that will prevent misuse of funds, hence, “we need to revisit the processes rather than individual projects.”
“I have written to our MP Ananthkumar, asking for more clarity on how long it will take for this project to begin,” he says, adding that he hasn’t received a response yet. “I am certain that it is only a matter of time till this project is undertaken, perhaps under a different or an amended scheme,” he adds.
-With inputs from Akshatha Rao