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Bengal plans to extend metro rail to Howrah

Our Bureau

Kolkata , Aug. 25

THE West Bengal Government is contemplating building a new metro railway network connecting the eastern fringes of the city to Howrah.

This was announced by the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, at a seminar on `Accelerating housing and construction industry' organised jointly by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Indian Chamber of Commerce.

The existing Metro Railway network connects Dum Dum in the north to Tollygunj in the south. An extension programme is already under way which will make Garia the southernmost point in the link.

"As an extension of the metro railway network, the State Government is seriously pursuing the proposal of an East-West Metro connecting Rajarhat in the east of Kolkata to Ramrajatala in the west (in Howrah) passing through Sealdah and Howrah station areas and BBD Bag", Mr Bhattacharjee said.

In this context, he said that some Japanese organisations are taking a keen interest in this new Metro project. The State Government is also considering introducing a light rail transit facility along the major corridors such as EM Bye Pass and the Barrackpore Kalyani Expressway.

Meanwhile, the State Cabinet has approved the policy of public-private partnership development. Currently, such arrangements were allowed only in the housing sector. The new sectors identified are PWD (public works department), transport, public health engineering, urban development and irrigation and waterways.

It may be noted that the West Bengal Government is the first State to go in for joint venture projects with the private sector for housing projects. At present, the State Government has five such joint ventures and three more are in the offing. These joint venture companies started operations in and around Kolkata but are now moving to district cities such as Siliguri, Asansol, Durgapur and Burdwan.

Members of the chamber urged the Chief Minister to remove the Land Ceilings Act. Mr Sushil Ansal, Chairman of FICCI's housing and public works committee, felt that if the ceiling was removed, there would be a tremendous surge in the private sector housing activity.

He felt the State Government should rationalise the stamp duties and property tax structure.

They should also reduce the number of clearances necessary for private players to start a housing project.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister talked of the controversial West Bengal Building (Regulation of Construction and Transfer by Promoters) Act, 1993. According to him, the Act is aimed at protecting the interest of prospective buyers in the private housing sector and to safeguard their rights from illegal and unplanned activities of some private building promoters.

"The basic objective of this Act is not to curb the private sector activities but to ensure that buyers in the private sector are not duped and basic parameters of building construction are not violated," he said.

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