Bengal retaliates to Centre's 'apathy'

Last Updated: Sat, Jan 05, 2013 18:41 hrs

If the decision to move the annual Global Partnership Summit 2013 from Kolkata to Agra soon after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s exit from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was Centre’s blow to its friend-turned-foe, it now seems to be Mamata’s turn for retaliation.

With hope almost lost over getting the moratorium on interest payment of central loan, the Banerjee-led government is using all possible means to up the ante against the Centre, be it withdrawing power subsidy to port and railways or non-cooperation to Centre, even at the cost throwing spanner to the upcoming metro project in the state.

The Centre’s decision to reduce subsidy on diesel and LPG cylinders prompted Banerjee’s party, Trinamool Congress, to walk out of UPA II. Now, the West Bengal government has decided to withdraw power subsidy to high voltage consumers, mainly comprising central undertakings like railways and Haldia Port.

Earlier, the government used to give subsidy to consumers of all categories at the rate of Rs 0.25 per unit. “There was no sense in subsidising the power consumption of central undertakings as well as port and railways. By withdrawing subsidy to the high-voltage consumers, the state government stands to gain around Rs 250 crore,” said a top official of the state power department.

Many in government see the move as a retaliation of Centre’s apathy, as they pointed out a proposal of rationalising the subsidy component was there for long.

Strengthening this belief, the state government is now even refusing to cooperate with the Centre for East West Metro project in Kolkata, once known to be Mamata Banerjee’s pet project.

After the state handed over its entire stake to Indian Railways, it has now withdrawn its application from a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court pertaining to land acquisition on a certain stretch of the proposed Howrah-Salt Lake route. The state was defending the land acquisition done by it for the project in the Division Bench of the court after a single judge bench of the court ordered Kolkata Metro Railway Corporation to return the land following a plea to a section of land losers.

But, the state has suddenly taken a U-turn and withdrawn its application from the court, citing it was not ready to take the responsibility of the project.

KMRCL originally a joint venture between West Bengal government and Union Urban development ministry, was formed for developing the East West metro project that will connect Salt Lake to Howrah. Following, the stake hand-over, Indian Railway will own 74 per cent stake in the project, while Union Urban Development Ministry will hold the balance 26 per cent.

“The project is in the state. The state government only wanted to hand over the stake to railways, when they had the ministry. Now, they are not ready to cooperate to any extent. The project is falling prey to vindictive politics of state-government,” Union Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.

The move is expected to cause further delay to the the project, as Railways has again filed a recall petition in the Calcutta High Court in this regard. However, Chowdhury pointed out, it would be difficult for Railways to take forward the project if state refuses to cooperate “at least land related issues.”

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