Plus & Minus

“A weekly column: Plus&Minus will be published in Hindustan Times, Jaipur Live. This will speak to the ordinary reader on contemporary economic issues in a simple format”.

    Citizens await Metro rail
    Hindustan Times Jaipur Live, December 07, 2009

By Pradeep S Mehta

Last week I wrote about the resolve of the government to make Jaipur a world class city, and that the government will also build a metro railway in the city among other infrastructural improvements. Simultaneously, we also have a new municipal government with a directly elected Mayor: Jyoti Khandelwal, who has promised a clean and women friendly city.

Mainly, it is the Jaipur Development Authority which plans and implements infrastructure projects in the city with the Jaipur Municipal Corporation having a little role in it. There is often a confusion in the minds of the citizens too on who has what authority. The 74th amendment of the Constitution has sought to devolve most powers to the elected body of corporators/councilors in our cities and towns. But the progress has been tardy, because of the inertia and lack of political will in our governance structure. Therefore any further work on the metro rail etc will be carried out by the JDA under the control and guidance of the state government and its specialized agencies. We are yet to see how the government will respond to the new municipal government in the city.

A metro rail project is usually underground as we can see in all big cities. Some of the lines also run overhead where an underground road is not feasible. The first ever metro rail project in India was established in Kolkata. The second major one was erected in Delhi which has earned huge plaudits from all for the efficient manner in which it is being done. There are several other cities, such as Hyderabad, Pune, Kochi, Bangalore which too have announced their intention to build such a project.

Generally speaking a metro project on its own cannot be remunerative and has to be supported by the government through tax support and subsidies. Another way to garner extra non-operative revenues is through development of real estate and rental incomes.

In terms of the model of execution there are two are two modes: firstly through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) route where there is a joint venture with a private investor who builds and operates the metro for a fixed period of say 30 years or more, and shares all revenues with the government. The other way is for the government to implement and operate the metro and get it constructed by inviting contractors. The Delhi metro is being done on the latter basis.

In terms of the Jaipur project there is already a big debate on the model to be followed. There are both pros and cons on both sides. If there is a PPP partner, then the possibility of speedy and efficient execution and operation is far far better. Even during construction the project will face many legal hitches, which can be better managed by a private investor. On the other hand if the government executes the project then one can very well imagine the likely cost and time over runs due to the work culture. On the other hand, if there is a smart leader of the project appointed by the government with an assured tenure and time bound target, the project could well be completed successfully. But that is wishing for too much when we see that the government has shifted at least three commissioners in the JDA over the period of just one year.

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