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Tribune Investigates
Ludhiana, Amritsar projects flounder
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 23
Multi-crore urban development plans for Ludhiana and Amritsar have gone for a toss. The Punjab government failed to present its case properly to the central government after the Prime Minister announced the schemes in September, 2005.

As a result, till date not a single paisa out of the promised Rs 2,053 crore city development project has been released for Ludhiana. In the case of Amritsar only a token amount has been sanctioned for one of the four components of the city development project that involves a sum of Rs 3,150 crore. In both cases the central government was to pay 50 per cent of the cost of the project. The state and the local MCs were to share 20 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.

The two cities were among 63 across the country which were selected under the Jawaharlal Nehru national urban renewal mission (JNNURM). A sum of Rs 50,000 crore of central funds has been earmarked for the 63 cities which will be released in the next seven years. Other states have raced ahead with their projects and already cornered a major chunk of the Rs 2,500 crore central funding till now and are now targeting the additional Rs 7,000 crore commitments of central funds for this year.

Punjab is the last in this race. Out of Rs 2,500 crore, Punjab has been given only Rs 22 crore for one project of Amritsar — less than even 1 per cent of the total money approved by the central government.

A top functionary admitted that Punjab was lagging behind as detailed project reports (DPR) were never presented or were incorrect. This time it cannot be blamed on political favouritism. Till February the Congress was the ruling party in the state and also at the centre. The fault lies closer home, where officials virtually slept over files and issues, said a top source. Documents with The Tribune reveal there has been little or no work despite several reminders from the union ministry of urban development.

Ludhiana has a Rs 2,053 crore project that included the main six-lane ring road bypass —- Rs 826 crore ; water supply and sewerage —- Rs 803 crore; facilities for the urban poor and slum dwellers —- Rs 166 crore; and solid waste management —- Rs 140 crore. The Ahmedabad-based consultant appointed by the central government rejected a plan prepared by the Ludhiana MC for Rs 3,995 crore. The consultant suggested a Rs 2,053 plan which was later agreed to by the central government. The project still awaits formal approval. At the last meeting of the group clearing JNNURM schemes, about four weeks ago, the case of Ludhiana was again not cleared.

Amritsar has a Rs 3,150 crore project. No sanctions have been obtained by Punjab for the Rs 2,567 crore mass rapid transport system and elevated road project, Rs 105 crore tourism projects and Rs 120 crore housing project. Only a sum of Rs 22 crore has been given as this year’s allocation for the Rs 239 crore water supply and sewerage project that is one of the four other components. The Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone in December last year and this was approved sometime last year. Even the Rs 22 crore is yet to be utilised.

Even as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, among other leading states, went ahead methodically with their plans, Punjab was busy lauding the projects. Full-page advertisements were inserted in newspapers making claims about the benefits of these projects in the cities.

Punjab has lagged behind on another front, too. The central government floated an urban infrastructure development scheme for small and medium towns. The state local government department was to prepare details of projects for 130 towns having elected urban local bodies. No DPR has been submitted till date while in comparison Andhra Pradesh has done this in 84 cases and Maharashtra 98 cases. Also, no town could benefit from another scheme for housing for small towns as again Punjab did not submit a DPR. Again, other states took the lead.

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