Five state governments have been granted Rs 4,691 crore (Rs 46.91 billion) for 13 projects under the Jawahar Lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), all of them for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the efficacy of which is still being tested in its first trial ground in Delhi.
Figures available from the urban development ministry show that these projects have already received the first tranche of funding.
What is even more surprising is the fact that of the five states that have proposed these schemes, three -- Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan -- are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been a vociferous opponent of the BRT project in Delhi.
Sources in the ministry confirm that these projects were approved without gauging the effect of the Delhi experiment, which has attracted wide criticism for causing traffic problems.
"Delhi is out of the purview of JNNURM, it is not a project approved under the scheme," an official is quick to point out. "All schemes under JNNURM are exhaustively looked at by expert committees at state and central levels before any funding is transferred," he added.
Asked if any of the experts involved in the Delhi BRT were on any of the committees, the official pleaded ignorance.
Sources, however, confirmed that the ministry is worried about the efficacy of these projects following the chaos of the first BRT trial in Delhi. A meeting was called with officials from the ministry of surface transport, but nothing came of it.
On April 26, the Delhi government decided to defer plans to expand the BRT across five additional routes in Delhi. Although the pilot project from Ambedkar Nagar to Moolchand has not been cancelled, five other routes going up to Delhi Gate have been put on hold till problems on the pilot stretch are sorted out.
"The BRT is an untried system, but every new system will have its teething problems and will take a while to stabilise. Whether it is Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 400 billion) or Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion), everyone is on a learning curve," added the official.