M A I N   N E W S

4-laning of Amritsar to Wagah road okayed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 27
With elections to the Punjab Assembly due early next year, the Union Cabinet today cleared the long-pending demand of four-laning of the Amritsar-Wagah section of National Highway 1 on built-operate-transfer (BOT) basis at an estimated cost of Rs 207 crore.

The government found BOT (toll) to be financially not viable as the cost incurred during construction and maintenance would be higher than the toll collected.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised the four-laning of this section of the highway during his visit to the state in March.

The cost would include Rs 195.48 crore for cost of work and cost towards land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement and utility shifting would cost Rs 11.52 crore.

The upgradation of the section would be under the National Highway Development Project on BOT basis. The upgradation of the existing road would improve traffic safety and provide faster movement of vehicles with improved riding quality and time.

This would provide linkage to other corridors of higher density, economic importance, tourism and pilgrimage.

Financial analysis of building the road on BOT (toll) basis by the government found that the project internal rate of return (pre-tax) was only 9.79 per cent and the expected return on equity was 5.94 per cent with a 40 per cent grant on this project from the government.

The Cabinet dropped the idea of BOT (toll) as even if a 40 per cent grant was provided for meeting the expenditure incurred during construction, the maintenance cost would be higher than toll collected in the section, as the traffic in this section was very low, tollable traffic in 2006 being 3,306 PCU per day.


Gobindgarh Fort to get additional land
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 27
The Union Cabinet today gave its approval for transfer of additional 15.168 acres of land near the historical Gobindgarh Fort at Amritsar to the Punjab Government without any cost and encumbrances.

The Cabinet decision will enable the government to declare the Heritage fort protected monument as the fort has a long Sikh history, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told newspersons after the Cabinet meeting.

However, the fort will be formally opened to the public only after all the security-related construction work has been complied with to the satisfaction of GOC, 15 Infantry Division.

Earlier, the Ministry of Defence had transferred 32.81 acres of defence land along the fort to the state government. With today’s Cabinet decision, the total land that would be transferred to the Punjab Government would be 47.978 acres of defence land.

While transferring the land to the state government, the Manmohan Singh Government put certain conditions on the Punjab Government before allowing the public to the fort. The state government would have to bear the cost of the construction work stipulated by the Centre.

They were — a 10 feet security wall with security lights on both sides of the road connecting Vijay Chowk and Gobindgarh Fort; another 10 feet security wall with security lights around the fort; a 212-metre long and 5.5-metre wide road from Vijay Chowk to JCOs/or married accommodation; a 90-metre long and 5.5-metre wide road from Vijay Chowk to Commanding Officers’ residence; a 1100-metre long and 5.5-metre wide road from the main road to the unit lines/offices.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet also gave its approval for the ratification of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted by UNESCO 
at its 33rd session on October 20, last year.

Mr Dasmunsi said the Cabinet also decided to contribute 1 per cent of India’s contribution to the regular budget of UNESCO to the fund for the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions yearly.

The decision would speed up consolidated and effective documentation of different elements of cultural expressions. It would focus immediate attention of Central and State Governments to formulate programmes for protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions which will promote unity in diversity in the country and international solidarity, Mr Dasmunsi added.



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