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Centre warns States over freight corridor delay

The Central government has expressed concerns over the slow progress of the two Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) across western and eastern India, warning the State governments concerned that they could default on multilateral and bilateral loans worth crores if the pace does not improve.

The Centre has asked States to complete forest clearances for 130 hectares of green land and permissions for 180 road overbridges (ROBs) pending for the two DFCs as early as possible. This delay and issues in transfer of land from States to the National Highways Authority of India are holding back work, officials said.

“Considering major benefits of the two DFC projects and substantial multilateral and bilateral loans, timely executive and commissioning is essential. The Chief Secretaries of the States should see the progress is not held up,” reads an action taken report (ATR) prepared by D.C. Bijalwan, Under Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat.

Cost escalation

The 1,500-km western corridor is proposed from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and cuts across Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. The 1,400-km eastern DFC is to criss-cross through Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The delay in work has already resulted in cost escalation. From Rs. 28,181 crore approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in 2008, the cost of the two DFCs had risen to Rs. 81,459 crore by 2016. The western DFC cost rose from the sanctioned Rs. 16,592 crore in February 2008 to Rs. 49,902 crore in 2016, officials said.

The ATR is also critical of the progress of land transfers in several States, including Maharashtra, directing the governments to acquire and hand over balance land quickly. “The Ministry of Railways in coordination with the State governments should speed up execution and aim to start operations in some portions at least by end of 2018,” it says.

Deadline unlikely

The corridors have already been declared unlikely to meet the scheduled deadline of March 2020. The Centre said 45 hectares of land is still pending acquisition in Maharashtra, followed by 35 hectares in Uttar Pradesh, 12 in Gujarat, and five in Rajasthan. Acquisition of ONGC land in Kheda and Gandhinagar and no-objection certificates for 11 pipelines crossing Surat and Vadodara are pending. In Haryana, possession of land in Asa village and mutation of irrigation land of Nuh Canal are yet to be done, while Rajasthan is lagging in transfer of land belonging to the Rajasthan State Industrial Development and Investment Corporation in Salarpur.

“Most of the ROBs are being constructed by the Public Works Department in Maharashtra. But land acquisition is the subject of the City and Industrial Development Corporation, and should have bee completed by August 2018. We are looking into it,” said a senior State secretary.

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