Friday, March 14, 2008

Increase in Project Cost

M Aruloli & S Raja on New India Press

MADURAI/RAMANATHAPURAM: As the Union Government shrugged off its hesitation on the Ramar Sethu issue and expressed its readiness to go ahead with the Sethusamudram Project in its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the anti-Sethu movements have now raked up a much stronger issue relating to the silent increase of the Government of India's share as per the budgetary allocations. Of the total project estimation of Rs 2427 crore earmarked for the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, around Rs 250 crore was decided to be shared by the Tuticorin Port Trust, Shipping Corporation of India, Dredging Corporation of India and by the other major ports of Ennore, Chennai, Vizagapattinam and Paradeep.

Further, the government's share towards the project was fixed at Rs 495 crore and about Rs 1500 crore was agreed to be mobilised as bank loan which the AXIS bank by an agreement with the Sethusamudram Corporation limited (SCL) had accepted to arrange. The rest of the money was planned to be mobilised by way of public share.

To fulfill its share towards the project, the government had so far allotted Rs 150 crore and Rs 111.88 crore and Rs 524 crore in the three consecutive union budgets since 2005.

As the grand total of the government allocation exceeded the amount proposed earlier, anti-Sethu movements like the National Union of Fishermen (NUF) doubted whether the government had been silently increasing its share so as to meet the increased project cost of Rs 3500-Rs 4000 crore.

The president of NUF Anton Gomez, who visited Ramanathapuram on Wednesday pointed to a statement by a higher official of AXIS bank that states the bank has withdrawn itself from its responsibility of mobilising funds for the project as the Government was not ready to give an undertaking.

Fishermen activists like Jesurathinam, the convenor of Coastal Action Network and Paulsamy, president of Ramanathapuram Fish Workers Trade Union echoed the same concern of NUF.

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