January 1, 2019 may begin without one of Delhi’s most ubiquitous sights for the past two decades – Delhi Metro Rail Corp’s (DMRC) construction work.
DMRC is yet to receive approval for Phase IV from the Delhi government, which has not cleared it since 2015. After it receives the state government’s approval, DMRC will have to approach the Centre for its go-ahead. Given that it is already the middle of October, there’s little chance of that changing by the end of the year.
Senior DMRC officials said that by the end of December they will finish Phase III and also start operations. In an e-mail response, DMRC confirmed this and added that with no approval in sight , it will “ not be in a position to start the implementation of Phase IV”.
This is the first time since 1998 that Metro construction work will not take place in at least some part of the city.
Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government declined comment.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has on two occasions in the past few months — the inauguration of the Janakpuri West-Kalkaji Mandir section of the Magenta Line and the flagging off of the Durgabai Deshmukh South Campus-Lajpat Nagar corridor of the Pink Line — assured that the Phase IV proposal would be cleared “at the earliest” .
Union minister of housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday criticised the Kejriwal government for “holding up development projects in Delhi”. He said that the Phase IV proposal has been stuck with the Delhi government for almost three years now with no signs of progress.
“Whenever I meet the CM I remind him to expedite the Phase IV proposal but he keeps giving some excuse or the other. There is a pattern with this government. They are not allowing development projects to happen,” Puri said.
There are six routes proposed under phase IV.
In media statements in April this year, the Delhi government “rejected” the proposed 21.73km Rithala-Narela corridor and the 22km Tughlakabad-Terminal 1 section, citing “financial losses” . Senior Delhi government officials who asked not to be named said at the time that the other four corridors — Janakpuri West-RK Ashram (28.92km), Mukundpur-Maujpur (12.54km), Inderlok-Indraprastha (12.58km ) and Lajpat Nagar-Saket G Block (7.96km) — were cleared.
DMRC said on Monday that it has not received any official communication from the Delhi government rejecting these two routes or approving the other four routes. Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communications) at DMRC, said that the Delhi government had on January 29 intimated that two corridors (Rithala-Narela and Tughlakabad-Terminal 1) could be deferred for the time being.
This is the first time since DMRC started construction work in the city in 1998 that any proposed corridor of the Delhi Metro has been stuck in bureaucratic delays.
Virendra Kumar Sharma, transport economist and infrastructure planner, said that the reason of “financial viability” cited by the Delhi government should not stand in the case of large development projects such as the Metro.
“Properties develop on the pretext of Metro projects. Areas such as Dwarka, Mundka and Noida Extension have developed only after the announcement of Metro reaching there. The coming of the Metro makes a locality financially viably. Such infrastructure plans should be kept away from politics,” Sharma said.