Nearly four years after submitting the Detailed Project Report (DPR) on the Light Metro project in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode in Kerala, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has withdrawn from the project.
This move comes following the Kerala government’s failure to sign the agreement with DMRC, even 15 months after the agreement was submitted to the state government.
DMRC Principal Advisor E Sreedharan confirmed in a press meet held in Kochi on Thursday that DMRC has been forced to withdraw from the project, owning to "no progress in work."
Addressing the media, Metroman E Sreedhran said that despite multiple meetings with the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, PWD Minister and secretaries of the state government, the government has not signed the agreement.
"After submitting the DPR, it usually takes at least two years for it to be approved by the Government of India (GoI). But generally, what all state governments do, is to give sanction for the work to start, after receiving the DPR. In many cases, including metro construction in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, GoI approval was received after the work commenced using the state government fund. But Kerala government did not do this, they took the stand that at least in-principle approval should be received before commencing the work," E Sreedharan said.
He said that DMRC then began preparatory works, including land acquisition and land planning, after a government order was issued.
"In June 2016, after the new LDF government came to power, they gave the nod for preparatory works to begin. The CM took a stand that we should start the construction work after we get approval from GoI. The Kerala government asked DMRC to go ahead with the preparatory works. In September 2016, a GO (Government Order) was issued, asking DMRC to do the consultancy and preparatory works. In December 2016, we gave a draft agreement to the government," Sreedharan said.
Sreedharan also pointed out that in a meeting of Kerala Rapid Transit Corporation Limited (KRTL) in December last year, there were opinions that a tender must be called and the preparatory works be assigned to another company.
"When we got that information, we realised that we should withdraw from the scene," Sreedharan said.
Kerala Rapid Transit Corporation Limited (KRTL) is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of the Government of Kerala, set up for the implementation and subsequent operation and maintenance of the Metro Rail Systems in the cities of Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode.
DMRC had set up two offices in the state since 2014, for the running of which, it had to shell out Rs 16 lakh per month. Both these offices are in the process of being shut down, Sreedharan said.
"Since we are not able to start the work because the agreement has not been signed, we cannot continue operating the offices. DMRC is a government company; without work, we cannot function the offices. We have sent back the officers on deputation and the offices will be completely shut by March 15 this year," Sreedharan said.
Although he reiterated that he was not upset with the state government for the delay, Sreedharan said that the government's delay had forced DMRC to pull out of the project.
"I have met the CM, PWD minister and secretaries many times and despite them assuring that they will sort everything, nothing has happened so far. CM did assure that he will solve it, but practically, no step forward has taken place. In May 2017, we had written a note saying that there is no progress in the work," Sreedharan said.
He added, "We have no malice against anyone, no complaint against the government. We are only trying to safeguard our financial interest. We cannot run it without adequate work."
On January 21 this year, DMRC gave a final notice to the state government, seeking approval to pull out of the project in the wake of delay in signing the agreement. He added that although he wanted to meet the CM to apprise him of the company's decision, "He is still waiting for an appointment."
"We have no choice but to pull out of the project," he said, adding that people must know how DMRC was "driven to withdraw" from the project.
The Rs 7,446 crore Light Metro project, was proposed to cover 35.12 km in the two cities of Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. Of the total amount, Sreedharan said that the state's revised share was Rs 2700 crore.