With the Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) announcing the inauguration of the Sealdah Metro station by Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development and MP Amethi Smriti Irani on Monday, the ruling Trinamool Congress has accused the Centre of playing politics by “not inviting” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to the inauguration of a major station on the East-West Metro corridor.
The TMC alleged that during her tenure as the railway minister, it was Mamata Banerjee who had approved the project, but the Centre is “deliberately inaugurating” the Metro station by “ignoring” the Chief Minister.
However, rebuffing the TMC charges, the state BJP said that the Center had been cooperating with the state government in all areas. State Transport Minister Firhad Hakim said, “Mamata Banerjee had approved the metro project when she was the railway minister. The state fully cooperated during the construction of the project. The value of the acquired land was Rs 600 crore, and the Chief Minister gave that money. Even then, the Metro station is being inaugurated without inviting her.”
“The Chief Minister is not eager to attend the ceremony, but the people of the state are watching everything. The Center only does politics. It doesn’t know how to cooperate.”
Reacting to the TMC charges, state BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said, “The Trinamool is looking everyone in its own mirror. They are judging the Centre in their own way. The Center always cooperates with the state but they are not cooperating with the Center.”
Earlier, Metro Railway spokesperson Ekalabya Chakraborty said, “Sealdah station of East-West Metro will be inaugurated on Monday and Union minister Smriti Irani has been invited to inaugurate it. Even if the minister is unable to make time, the inauguration will still be held on that day. The commercial services between Sector V in Salt Lake and Sealdah will start from July 14.”
Metro rail sources, however, said the officials would invite local MLAs and MPs to the function.
A senior metro rail official said that they had no plan to invite any state government minister. “As per protocol, we will invite local MPs and MLAs,” said the official.
The Metro authorities are pinning hopes that the extension of services up to Sealdah will significantly increase the number of passengers in the partially operational East-West Metro corridor, which is suffering from low patronage. The Metro station will link suburban train services to and from Sealdah, one of the busiest terminal railway stations in the country, thus providing connectivity to the passengers travelling to Salt Lake and Information Technology hub at Sector V there. The East-West Metro section connecting Howrah Maidan and Salt Lake is partially operational at present with services being operated between Sector V station and Phoolbagan.
Out of the 16.6-km-length of East-West Metro, the underground corridor constitutes 10.8 km between Howrah and Phoolbagan with the tunnel passing below the Hooghly river. For the rest of the route, trains will travel on elevated tracks, according to KMRC, the executing agency of the project.
Several houses developed cracks during the underground work for the East-West Metro line at Bowbazar in central Kolkata in May, nearly three years after a similar incident there. On August 31, 2019, a tunnel boring machine hit an aquifer leading to severe ground subsidence and the collapse of several buildings at Bowbazar. It caused a delay in the completion of the project, which was earlier scheduled for December 2021.
— WITH PTI INPUTS