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Pradeep Pattanayak

The Khordha-Bolangir railway project, which is moving at a snail's pace, has got BJD and BJP engaged in a blame game. The Congress has held both parties responsible for the tardy pace.   

In contrast to the tradition of the Centre asking for utilisation certificate (UC), the Odisha State government has asked for the same from the Union government. 

As per the letter of the State Commerce and Transportation department to the East Coast Railway, the Odisha State government and the Ministry of Railways had signed an MoU. As per the MoU, the State government has made available of Rs483 crore for the project, besides acquiring 80 percent of the required land and handing the same over to the East Coast Railway (ECoR). 

However, the ECoR has not submitted the UC to the State yet. This apart, the estimation as to how much money the State government will pay in the coming days has also not been submitted, the letter states.

In the letter, the State government has informed the Ministry of Railways that the latter's failure in submitting the UC and estimation would give rise to problems in making allocation in the 2022-23 budget. 

While the agreement mandates the State government to provide the required land free of cost and 50 percent of the project cost, the government is extending all kinds of support. 

"So far, I have already had meetings with the concerned officials over the project for at least three times. The problem relating to jungle clearance from Dasapalla to Charichhak has also been solved. The construction work will begin soon," informed Commerce and Transport Minister Padmanabha Behera. 

The Khordha-Bolangir railway project, green signalled 27 years ago in 1994-95, is yet to get off the ground. With an aim to speed up the project, the State government and the Ministry of Railways had entered into an agreement in 2015. Then, 2021 was set as the target for the completion of the project.     

But, from the pace at which the project is currently moving, it doesn't need a rocket scientist to guess that it would take many more years to see the light of the day. 

So far, of the 289-kilometre-long project, only 77-kilometre-long tracks from Khordha Road to Mahipur has been laid. Similarly, from Bolangir side, 16-kilometre-long track has been laid up to Bichhupali.  As of now, work on 91-kilometre-long tracks from Mahipur to Dasapalla is underway. It is reliably learnt  that work on 100-kilometre-long tracks from Dasapalla to Boudh has not been initiated at all. 

The main hurdle coming on the project's way is said to be the land acquisition since most of the land to be acquired for the project is forest land. 
Meanwhile, the BJD, BJP and Congress have started accusing one another for the snail pace of the project. While the BJD is holding the Centre responsible for the delay, the BJP is accusing the BJD over the same. 

Meanwhile, the Congress is holding both the BJD and BJP responsible for the slow progress of the much awaited project. 

"The project is getting delayed due to the Central government. The State government has already provided the money and land and it is the Central government that has to execute the project speedily," said former BJD MP from Bolangir, Kalikesh Singhdeo. 

Senior Congress Leader and MLA (Jatni) Suresh Kumar Routray said both the Central and State governments are equally responsible for the delay. While the State government is claiming that it has already provided the required land, the Central government is denying this. So, both should try to end whatever misunderstandings they have, he said. 

"If the project has not been completed as yet despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's best efforts and budgetary allocation, the State government is to be thanked for this. Due to the negligence of the State government, the land acquisition has emerged as a main hurdle. The State government's claim of 80 percent land having been acquired is not true," maintained BJP State general secretary Prithwiraj Harichandan.  

In 2015, the cost of the project was estimated to be around Rs2,000 crores. The delay has nevertheless, led to cost overrun.

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