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Pradeep Pattanayak

Union Minister of Railways, Communications and Electronics and Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw on Sunday shed light on the Centre's expanding focus for the development of railways and telecom sectors in Odisha. 

In an exclusive interview to OTV, the Minister said he was grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his record allocation to Odisha in the Railway Budget 2022. This fund allocation would ensure early completion of all the ongoing and new projects. 

On Odisha government's claim that it also has its share in the Rs 9,734 crore rail budget allocation, Vaishnaw said there is not even an iota of truth in the State's claim. “Rs 9,734 crore is purely the Central government’s allocation. There is no share of the State government in it,” he answered. 

Vaishnaw said all railway projects in the State are progressing at a full speed and people of Odisha will see all their dreams come to reality gradually. “For the completion of any project, three things always play vital roles. The first one is will power, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has it in abundance. The second one is fund which has generously been provided to the State. And the third one relates to the process involved like acquisition, forest clearance etc. Efforts are on to complete these processes," said the minister. 

On the Khordha-Bolangir rail line, which was sanctioned in 1994, but only 92 kilometers out of a total 289 kilometers of the project completed so far, Vaishnaw ascribed it to the delay in getting forest approval. Expressing his desire to see the long-awaited project see the light of the day, he said, “For the projects in Odisha, I am ready to visit even a tehsildar and get works done so that projects that are hanging fire can be completed.”

When asked about his push for the State government for better coordination in getting land acquisition processes for pending rail projects, the minister said, “Since we are working in a federal structure, the State and Centre are equally responsible for successful completion of any project be it Railway, Telecom, IT or Electronics manufacturing.”

On the completion of wagon factory in Ganjam’s Sitalapalli and wagon repair factory in Kalahandi, the Railway Minister said all the efforts are on to see them get completed. “For setting up a railway factory, land measuring 300 acres to 500 acres is required. And another criterion is that the land should be in a linear shape. With respect to Kalahandi project, around 50 percent of the total required land has been acquired,”

Vaishnaw said while assuring that it is his only dream to put on extra efforts to realize the PM's dreams for Odisha come true. The Union Railway Minister exuded confidence that Odisha will see remarkable progress in the Railway sector in north, south, east, west and central regions in the State before the general elections 2024.

Vaishnaw, who is also Communications and Electronics & Technology Minister, highlighted that the Prime Minister in December last year has already approved installation of 3,933 new mobile towers for Odisha which will be carried out with an investment of Rs 3200 crore. It will help connect around 6000 villages in Odisha. Soon we will acquire land for the sites. We will also have Right of Way (RoW) for laying up fiber cable. Then the work will start.”

"The Prime Minister has a clear instruction that not a single village of Odisha should be devoid of mobile connectivity. The PM has asked us to conduct a survey to find out if any village is left out and come out with a Cabinet note. We call it Mission Purvodaya," the Minister said.

Regarding 5G roll-out, the Minister said Odisha people will soon get the 5G service. “The Prime Minister has asked us that the entire 5G technology starting from 5G network to 5G handset should develop in India itself. We are working in that direction,” he informed. 

On not getting cooperation in the Parliament to bring in any reformation in social media, the minister said media is evolving media, new regulations are coming up every day all across the globe. The prime objective of the policy is to come up with accountability for the safety of women and children. And there has to be a consensus among the stakeholders regarding Right to Privacy.

Vaishnaw concluded with a note that he sees the BJP perform exceedingly well in the upcoming panchayat elections in Odisha.

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