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No beating about the bush.
In less than 10 years, the cost of Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link has gone to about Rs10,000 crore from Rs4,000 crore. After some unrealistic bidding in the initial stages, at present not a single bidder is willing to submit a bid for the project that would reduce commuting time between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai
It has been 43 years since the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL) project was first proposed. The MTHL project also known as Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link, a 22 km freeway grade road bridge was expected to reduce commuting time between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai and provide direct connectivity to Mumbai Port Trust (MPT), Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and the proposed Navi Mumbai international airport. Unfortunately, unrealistic bidding by consortiums, especially from both Mukesh and Anil Ambani led consortiums and objections raised by environmental activists as well as JNPT, have only doubled the cost over the years.
The first real attempt to make this project a reality was made in 2004, when IL&FS submitted a proposal to implement the project on a build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) basis. State-run Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) also submitted a counter proposal. Although the proposal by IL&FS was discussed by the government, it was side-lined for reasons best known to the authorities.
Then in 2005, MSRDC invited bids for the project. However, the process to receive bids and award the project went on till 2009. A consortium of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group
How the cost shot up
The cost of the MTHL has increased several times. In 2005, the cost of the project was estimated at Rs4,000 crore. The cost was revised to Rs6,000 crore in 2008. It was then increased to Rs8,800 crore in November 2011 and finally to Rs9,360 crore in August 2012.
In January 2013, the union government sanctioned Rs1,920 crore, which is 20% of the project cost, in viability gap for the MTHL project. The State Government will also contribute the same amount while the winner is expected to pull in the rest. This also means, the cost of the project has not gone up to Rs9,600 crore, a whopping 240% from the estimated cost of Rs4,000 in just 10 years.
company Reliance Energy (REL) and Hyundai Engineering Construction Company quoted a concession period of nine years and 11 months against 75 years quoted by Mukesh Ambani's Sea King Infrastructure, the only other bidder left in the fray. Significantly, in 2004, the MSRDC taking into consideration the 30-year concession period for the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, had estimated a 35-year concession period for the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link project. At that time the cost of the project was estimated at Rs4,000 crore.
Interestingly, the REL-Hyundai consortium was disqualified at the technical bid stage as Hyundai did not meet the criteria of $200 million networth as per the bid documents. Even L&T Gammon Industries and IFFCO, the other bidders opted out of the race leaving Sea King as the only bidder, says a report from Business Standard.
However, according to the report, the REL-Hyundai consortium challenged the disqualification in court and got a favourable verdict from the Supreme Court. The apex court granted the consortium 90 days to submit its bid that ended on 15 December 2007, the report said.
Although the REL-Hyundai consortium won the bid, MSRDC itself was not sure about viability of such a low concession period. MSRDC then re-evaluated the winning bid through London-based Dar Consultants. Business Standard, in a report quoted, the then minister for public works and MSRDC chairman Anil Deshmukh as saying, “The concession periods demanded by both brothers seem to be unrealistic.”
Deshmukh also told Mumbai Mirror that both bids seemed frivolous in nature, and that a final decision would be taken based on the report submitted by the consultants to MSRDC.
Concessional period for a project is the time taken to complete the project, collect the toll to cover the cost, and then hand over the project to the government.
The state government then decided to invite fresh bids for the project in 2008. Although, the fresh round of bidding saw as many as 13 companies evince interest in the project, none submitted bids. At that time the cost of the project was revised to Rs6,000 crore.
Then in 2011, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) stepped into the scenario. In August, MMRDA appointed Arup Consultancy Engineers and KPMG to conduct the techno-economic feasibility of the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link. Again, the cost of the project was increased to Rs8,800 crore from original estimate of Rs4,000 crore.
In May 2012, the MMRDA shortlisted five consortia out of six that had expressed interest in the project. They are Cintra-SOMA-Srei, Gammon Infrastructure Projects -OHL, Concessions-GS Engineering, GMR Infrastructure-L&T -Samsung C&T Corp, IRB Infrastructure Developers-Hyundai, and Tata Realty and Infrastructure-Autostrade Indian Infrastructure Development Pvt Ltd-Vinci Concessions Development V Pte Ltd.
In the meantime, the cost of Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link was again revised to Rs9,360 crore in August 2012.
On 22 October 2012, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan gave clearance to the project. Next day, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) gave a conditional environmental clearance to the sea link project. Some of the conditions were that the MMRDA should put up noise barriers, replant five times the number of mangroves destroyed, no dredging and reclamation, use construction equipment with exhaust silencers and work in consultation with the Bombay Natural History Society to minimize the impact on migratory birds.
October 2012 turned out to be an eventful month for the Sewri-Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link. Following the clearances from the state government and MoEF, on 31st October, the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) also granted an in-principle approval for the MTHL. The DEA recommended granting Rs1,920 crore with a concession period of 35 years for the project.
On 9 November 2012, the state government issued a state-support agreement and a toll notification for the project. The empowered committee approved viability gap funding (VGF) for MTHL on 12 December 2012. Later on 18 January 2013, union finance minister P Chidambaram cleared the project.
Although the MMRDA shortlisted five consortiums for the project, so far is has not received any bids. According a report in the Times of India, the state government has finally decided to construct the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link on its own if it does not receive a bid on 5 August 2013.
Quoting UPS Madan, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, the report said, “...this time the government will not let the project fall for want of funds. If we do not receive any bids on August 5 then we shall go on our own”.
In January 2013, the union government sanctioned Rs1,920 crore, which is 20% of the project cost, in viability gap for the MTHL project. The state government will also contribute the same amount while the winner is expected to pull in the rest.
This also means, the cost of the project has not gone up to Rs9,600 crore, a whopping 240% from the estimated cost of Rs4,000 in just 10 years. Unfortunately, it is the common people who will have to foot the bill either directly (through toll) or indirectly (through various taxes).
In direct contrast to the speed at which private enterprise works, the Tamil Nadu government has suddenly decided to clamp down the work carried out by Great Eastern Energy Corporation in the state since 2010
There is always a big difference between private enterprise which is motivated by profit but that still serves peoples’ needs, as against political actions that show great concern for public reaction which may actually camouflage political motives and lethargy.
Take Reliance Industries’ (RIL) coal bed methane gas plant at Shogapur block in Madhya Pradesh. RIL envisages a production of 3.5 mmscmd (million metric standard cubic metres of gas) of methane gas from 2015 and to show its seriousness, the company has even given a performance guarantee for Rs13 crore. It expects to commission the plant by 2015. We should not be surprised, if RIL starts earlier, unless some stumbling blocks are created en route!
This 312 km pipeline will transport CBM from Shogapur in MP to Pulpur in UP, which has a designed capacity to carry 4.3 mmscmd.
The work is being carried out by Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure, a subsidiary of RIL, and necessary approvals have been obtained from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB).
Later on, should the situation warrant, this gas pipeline can be hooked into GAIL’s main trunk line. As we can notice now, the work has been planned well in advance so that no time is lost when CBM is produced, which can be supplied to customers. It would follow that the gas allocation will presumably come from the ministry.
In direct contrast to the speed at which private enterprise works, the Tamil Nadu government has suddenly decided to clamp down the work that has been going on since 2010 in the state, being carried out by Great Eastern Energy Corporation (GEECL).
GEECL is the first company in India to commercially produce natural gas from coal beds in West Bengal, which has drilled 150 wells so far, without any problems.
GEECL has received a licence to explore coal bed methane (CBM) in 691square km in Tanjore and Thiruvarur in Tamil Nadu. In 2011, the DMK led state government in Tamil Nadu issued a four year licence to GEECL and entered into an agreement, based on the production sharing agreement signed with the company by the central government.
Subsequently, as the work progressed, some farmers had expressed concern about ground water contamination, environment pollution, apart from water depletion in the area.
Although the ministry of environment and forests gave conditional clearance in September 2012, the present chief minister, Jayalalithaa, has now stopped the work till an expert committee, appointed by the Tamil Nadu government clears the same, and obtain the approval from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
So, the work has come to a stand-still and the report of the expert committee is expected in 90 days.
The question is that this issue of exploring CBM has been going on since 2010, with various formalities and compliance of procedures must have been in place since then by GEECL. Now, for the chief minister to claim that the farmers’ concerns have not been fully addressed is a late lame excuse? Was not the Tamil Nadu Pollution Board aware of the licence issued by the previous DMK government? What was it doing since September 2012 when the MOEF gave GEECL conditional approval? Conditional approvals are stumbling blocks that delay project work. What were they, anyway?
Did the Tamil Nadu government directly seek clarification from GEECL on the issues that it is asking now to clarify? Or is the TN government raising these issues after so many years just because the project had received clearance from the previous government with which the present government is always at loggerheads? If it raised the issue with GEECL, what was the contractor’s response?
Is it interested in the welfare of the people in the state or is it more concerned about the opposition party getting the benefit, should substantial CBM gas is struck in the area?
Of course, matters relating to farmers concerns need to be addressed and corrective steps taken to project the interest and environment, but success for obtaining such gas for the benefit of the power starved nation is just as important.
It would be in the interest of the public to know the actual position from both the Tamil Nadu government and the explorer, GEECL!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
Lucknow-based activists have prayed Chief Justice Sathasivam for an independent enquiry into various allegations associated with outgoing Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, including alleged leak of an order on medical entrance test passed on his last day
Lucknow-based activists, Dr Nutan Thakur and Asok Pande have demanded a probe by independent body into various allegations associated with outgoing Chief Justice Altamas Kabir. The allegations include, leakage of an order passed on his last day, allegations of not promoting Bhaskar Bhattacharya, former Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court for vested reasons and exerting undue pressure on Supreme Court Collegium to elevate a Judge to the Supreme Court.
In a letter sent to Chief Justice P Sathasivam, the activists said, at 8.36am on 18th July, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, a lawyer from the Supreme Court published an article 'Into the Darkness' on a website 'Bar and Bench'. The article stated, "In a little while, on his last day in office, the Chief Justice's court will deliver the much awaited judgment concerning the validity of the national medical entrance test to be conducted by the Medical Council of India. For the better part of the last week, senior counsel and junior advocates alike have without compunction shared a story that the appeals by the private colleges will be allowed with a declaration that the MCI has no jurisdiction, and that Justice Dave will dissent from this view. The judgment, it is confidently touted, runs into more than 190 pages and in excess of 300 paragraphs. It is my fervent hope that this tale is false - a figment of some perverse and destructive mind. In a few hours, we will know the truth."
On the same day at 11am, the three Judge bench including the then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice AR Dave quashed the Medical Council of India’s (MCI) notification for holding common entrance tests for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), Bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) and post-graduate medical courses.
Calling the pronouncement of almost same kind of judgement by the Bench headed by the ex-CJI, the activists have an independent enquiry preferably by Committee consisting of retired Chief Justice or Justice of Supreme Court, eminent advocate like Prashant Bhushan, Fali Nariman and social activist like Anna Hazare or Aruna Roy.
Dr Thakur and Mr Pande also cited articles from Times of India, Hindustan Times and Bar and Bench.
Here is what the report from the Hindustan Times, says...
"Meanwhile, CJI Kabir was caught unawares when informed that an article by SC advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan - uploaded on a website two hours before the verdict - had leaked the judgment and even mentioned that Justice Dave's would be the dissenting vote. The article talked about "gossip" within court circles that the appeals by private colleges against the NEET would be allowed. When questioned about the 'leak', Justice Kabir said he was surprised and shocked. "What can I say about it?" he said. The outgoing CJI was on his way to his farewell party when media persons questioned him."
An article published by Times of India on 19th July titled "Collegium stalls outgoing CJI's attempt to push judge's appointment to SC" also talks about former CJI Kabir's meeting with the Collegium. It says...
In an unprecedented step, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Altamas Kabir had - a fortnight before his retirement - proposed before the Collegium of four senior-most Supreme Court Judges for recommending to the Centre to appoint a high court Chief Justice as Judge of the apex court. The CJI had on July 2 requisitioned a meeting of the Collegium comprising himself and justices P Sathasivam, GS Singhvi, RM Lodha and HL Dattu. Once they assembled, the Collegium members were told by the CJI about the proposal. But, the CJI was told that the President has signed the warrant of appointment designating justice Sathasivam as the next CJI and fixed July 19 for administering oath to him. Since, the warrant of appointment had come, it would be against precedents and tradition for the outgoing Chief Justice of India to push for appointment of Judges to the high courts or the Supreme Court.
Not convinced, Justice Kabir sought individual opinions of each member of the Collegium on the tradition and precedent thrown at him to stall his last proposal as the head of the judiciary. All four senior-most judges concurred that it would not be proper for the outgoing CJI to push for an appointment to the Supreme Court especially when his successor had been issued warrant of appointment. He was told that in the past, the outgoing Chief Justices had in fact requisitioned the meeting of Collegium but it was only to address an emergency, like an ad-hoc Judge's tenure in a high court coming to an end prior to the new CJI taking oath warranting extension or denial thereof. Unconvinced by the logic presented to scuttle his proposal, the CJI, it is learnt, flared up accusing the Collegium members of "ganging up" against him. With the overwhelming majority in the Collegium not favouring breaching the tradition and precedent, the CJI had no option but to drop his proposal.
Another article published on 12 July 2013 on the Bar and Bench site, claimed that Bhattacharya, former CJ of Gujarat HC alleged that the real reason for him not being denied a place in SC was opposition to elevation of (ex-CJI) Kabir's sister Shukla Kabir Sinha, to the Calcutta High Court.
The activists requested CJI Sathasivam, to get all the facts mentioned in their petition enquired by a completely independent body and take all possible measures, including criminal and administrative measures on extremely critical issues raised in the petition as well as published in various news articles and as leveled by a person of the stature of acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat HC.