Monday, April 09, 2012

Is E Sreedharan blaming Haldea for Kochi Metro’s massive cost overrun?

E Sreedharan
Metro Man E Sreedharan, currently handling the Kochi Metro rail project, blamed bureaucracy for a cost overrun of Rs 2600 crore. Though Sreedharan did not name any bureaucrat in the interview given to CNBC-TV18, those who have tracked corridors’ inside stories would safely guess he was blaming a bureaucrat in Planning Commission known for his proximity to deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Is he indirectly blaming highly powerful yet controversial bureaucrat Gajendra...
Haldea for “stalling” the Kochi Metro project?
First, let’s read what Sreedharan told CNBC-TV18 on record: “The cost (of the Kochi Metro project) has gone up from original Rs 2500 to Rs 5100 crore now. Whom do you blame? You can’t blame the politicians for this cost overrun. It is only that the bureaucrats who did not take the right decisions at the right time.”
It was the Planning Commission which opposed the Rs 2,500 crore project, first conceived in 2005. Ahluwalia and his adviser had a point: How could the Central government dole out crores of rupees for infrastructure projects when the government needed to spend more and more resources on social projects? They bated for public private partnership (PPP) route for new metro projects whereas Sreedharan always voiced Delhi Metro model of state funding to be replicated across India. Then urban development secretary and Delhi Metro’s ex-officio chairman M Ramachandran, himself belonging to Kerala, pushed for the Kochi project but Haldea virtually vetoed it.
“All the politicians wanted this project to come up without any distinction. Communist government wanted it, the Congress government wanted it, but the bureaucrats were stalling it simply on the plea that it should be done as a PPP model. Knowing very well that in a PPP model nobody will come and invest unless he knows that he is going to get a return out of it…” Sreedharan said in the interview.
But why Sreedharan known for his forthright comments refrained from naming the bureaucrat? And, who except Haldea wanted the Kochi Metro to be a PPP project?
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