The bridge, the river below, uncared for! [Image source]
Here is a sharp contrast between how the government works and how a private company goes about its work.
Close to a decade, after powers-that-be were made to discover the priceless virtue of having a river flowing by the city, talks have been going on to improve the banks of Hooghly. Except for Millennium Park that opened with great fanfare in December 26, 1999, nothing much has happened.
There is however no lack of grand plans announced every now and then, like extending Millennium Park up to Howrah Bridge after suitably modifying ramshackle warehouses that presently crowd the place, beautifying riverfront on either side of the river, giving Dalhousie Square a regal facelift, and so on.
In practice, save one or two piecemeal initiatives here and there that rather look out of place than a touch of flair, nothing much has been done. If you ask me the reason, I’d say just about too many agencies are involved in the ‘game’, many with vested interests that cross-connect their intentions, thus stalling anything good.
Now there is a new plan, this one by the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), urged on by the CM. Yesterday’s ET reports that CII will help build public opinion on beautification of Hooghly riverfront up to Bandel and transformation of the city’s heritage-steeped central business district into a showpiece conservation zone.
Is public opinion really needed for beautifying riverfront? It’s a necessity that is crying for attention, what with recent findings that the river in the stretch along the city is he most polluted. Perhaps the intention of building an already-granted public opinion is to ensure that encroachers on the banks can be removed.
As always, this time too perhaps we’ll have to persevere till the turn comes for announcement of another grand plan.
The plan is to build 100 km smooth-as-silk eastern link highway from Barasat to Raichak, a bridge on Hooghly to connect Kukrahati (unlike that in city the river here is so wide that the bank opposite appears like a straight line), then another ‘likely’ bridge from Haldia to Nandigram (‘likely’ because we all know what the situation is now in Nandigram).
It’s a gigantic investment by any stretch of imagination, and how is Salim Group doing? It has already floated a new company by the name New Kolkata International Development Ltd (NKID).
NKID in its turn has months back appointed expert agencies to design the 2 bridges and work out engineering details of the highway (see my post, After Singur, Salim gets going).
It has got permission from KoPT (Kolkata Port Trust) to conduct surveys at places where the bridges are to come up, and is awaiting clearance from Indian Railways because the proposed highway intersects railway line at 3 places (refer ET, May 7).
Considering that post-Nandigram the investment climate in the state has turned murky (I deliberately don’t mention the dreaded words ‘land acquisition’ simply because nothing, but nothing happens without it) and the fact that it needs good sum of money to appoint consultants, it speaks volumes about how private companies approach their work.
Why, the Salim Group is committed to complete the Raichak-Kukrahati bridge by 2012! That’s just 5 years from now. Wonder if Kolkata’s riverfront improves even by that time!