New Delhi: At a time when the national capital chokes under a blanket of dense smog, a fresh controversy is brewing over construction of the already-delayed Eastern and Western Peripheral expressways, which were supposed to act as a protective ring around Delhi to shield it from pollution and traffic.
Accusing the Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments of “negligence, deficiencies and delays” in acquiring land for the expressways, the Delhi government has refused to pay extra for the land.
In its application submitted in the Supreme Court last week, the Arvind Kejriwal-government made it clear that Delhi cannot release any more money towards the projects and that either the Centre or those responsible for delays be made to pay for it.
“Delhi government is unable to release any amount more than that it has already released towards the cost of the expressways. Alternatively, this may also be considered by this Hon’ble court that the share of Delhi, which is the capital of the country, may be borne by the Government of India and/or the Haryana and UP governments over and above what Delhi has already contributed,” the applications maintained.
The Delhi government emphasised that the rationale behind them contributing towards the land acquisition costs for construction of these two expressways has got completely diluted, and lost all its importance and significance.
“Delhi was to get the benefit of lesser pollution and decongestion, both of which have not happened. Delhi continues to suffer excessive pollution and traffic congestion for all these years. Now Delhi cannot be made to pay a premium for the wrongs, negligence, delays and deficiencies on the part of the other two states,” said the plea, requesting the top court to issue a directive that Delhi does not need to pay more.
Eastern and Western Peripheral roads are access-controlled expressways, passing through several districts of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The expressways aim at diverting heavy traffic passing through Delhi but bound for other parts of the country.
The expressways are supposed to decongest Delhi by diverting a large number of vehicles from the Capital’s roads, reducing ever rising pollution, frequent traffic jams and improving traffic flow.
After the intervention of the Supreme Court in 2005, a financial sharing formula was arrived at and Delhi agreed to bear the cost of acquisition of land in UP and Haryana to the extent of 50 per cent, given the fact that expressways were to decongest the national capital. The Haryana and UP governments were to pay 25 per cent each.
At the time of passing of this order in February 2005, the cost of land acquisition was Rs 844 crore, which escalated to Rs 1,307 crore three months later. The Delhi government still agreed to cough up the additional amount that came around Rs 653 crore.
However, as per the 2017 report filed by the court-mandated monitoring committee, the total cost of land had gone up to Rs 7,694 crore with Delhi’s share increasing to Rs 3,847 crore. This amount, the Delhi government has now told the Supreme Court, cannot be paid by them.
“The government of Delhi had never contemplated that these costs would continue going up endlessly… the share to be contributed by the Delhi government has undergone revision at least three times. The financial implications of the several revisions is causing a burden on the limited finances available with the state,” it said in the application.
The Aam Aadmi Party government pointed out that Delhi’s share in central taxes has been fixed and small and “therefore, Delhi is not in a position to bear the increasing burden of continuously escalating project costs”.
The application stated that the Delhi government is unable to release any amount more than that it has already released, particularly since the purpose for which it agreed to pay up is lost.
“In fact, Delhi should be adequately compensated for the loss it suffered. If Delhi is made to pay any amount, these two states or whoever is responsible for extreme delays will get a premium for their own fault”, said the application, adding the direct commercial benefits of these expressways are to accrue to Haryana and UP apart from the fact that the states using the expressways may be asked to start levying additional cess.