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Defence Estates Office recommends grant of working permission to Highways department

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In a move which could pave the way for resumption of construction of a road over bridge (ROB) near the Railway Junction in Tiruchi, the Defence Estates Office in Chennai said it has recommended to the Defence Ministry grant of working permission to the Highways Department to go ahead with the pending work.

Disclosing this in a communication to M.Sekaran, president, Air, Road and Rail Travellers Federation, in response to his representation to the ministry seeking early transfer of the piece of land, the Public Grievance Officer, Defence Estates Office, Madras Circle, Chennai, said the office had on March 12 recommended the grant of permission as only a small piece of Defence land is required. The Highways Department had sought about 65 cents of Defence land near Mannarpuram for the project. Construction of the ROB was stopped several months ago as there has been an inordinate delay in completing the process of getting the land to complete the Chennai arm.

Nearly 90% of first stage of the project has been completed but for the Chennai arm of the bridge, which needs to be connected to a new approach road to be laid across the piece of Defence land.

The ROB being built by the Railways and the Highways department is being executed in two stages. The first stage has overshot its February 2017 deadline. After completion of the first stage, the old narrow bridge would have to be dismantled to make way for construction of a new bridge in the second stage.

In January, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during a visit to the city, had assured to take steps to clear the transfer soon but yet the land transfer is yet to be completed.

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Now, the Defence Estates Office has said that the Defence Ministry had asked the government to give land of equal value in lieu of the Defence land. “Till date, the state government/ Collector, Tiruchi, have not identified suitable land so that the matter is pending,” the note said.

Highways Department and district authorities have been claiming that the State government had offered land of equal value in Kanchepuram in lieu of Defence lands sought for various projects across the State, including the ROB and the airport expansion in Tiruchi.

When this was brought to her notice, Ms.Sitharaman, had promised to look into it. Subsequently, the Highways Department had requested the Defence Ministry to de-link the transfer of land required for the ROB in Tiruchi from proposals seeking Defence lands for other infrastructure projects in the State.

Sources in the Highways Department hoped that the Defence Ministry would take an early decision on issue so that the bridge could be completed soon.

Once the permission is given, it would require about three months to complete pending works, sources indicated.

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