The much-awaited Khordha-Bolangir railway line is nearing completion while two major projects, the Jeypore-Malkangri and the Jeypore-Nabarangpur railway lines are stuck in land hurdles. Paradoxically, when rail connectivity to remote districts like Malkagiri is still a dream, the state government has set up an airport in the district to push air connectivity.
Some leaders and local residents have raised a question on the state government's priority -- the airport or the rail project in a backward area like Malkangri.
With the fate of two ambitious railway projects hanging fire due to land hurdles, people and leaders of the two districts have expressed their displeasure. It is alleged that not an inch of land has been acquired for the two projects.
As per reports, the Central government signed a MoU with the Odisha government in 2016 to construct a new 128-km railway line in Malkangiri.
The state government was supposed to provide land and bear 50 percent of the project cost. For a stretch of 80 km railway line to pass through 42 villages in Malkangiri, the project requires 713 acres of private land and 252 acres of government land and 880 acres of forest land. Seven years have passed, but not a single inch of land has been acquired.
Similar is the status of Jeypore-Nabarangpur railway line, which is proposed to pass through 20 villages under Jeypore and Borigumma tehsils. The construction of the project and land acquisition have been left halfway, sources said.
Prashant Naik, a resident of Nabarnagpur, held the state government responsible for the delay in Jeypore-Nabarangpur railway line. He said, "The state government has not been able to acquire land. Small children in our area wonder what a train looks like. When we go to Jeypore, we see trains from afar. We apprehend it may not be possible to have rail connectivity between Jeypore and Nabanrangpur.”
Daniel Eka, the land acquisition officer of Jeypore-Malkangiri railway line, said, “I will stress on hastening the land acquisition for the project."
Durga Tripathy of Malkangiri said, "In the last five years, four land acquisition officers have been transferred. Land acquisition is moving at such a slow pace that people could not see trains even 75 years after Independence.”
BJP leader Balabhadra Majhi said, "It will hardly take a year to acquire land for the project. Six years have passed, but the state government could not acquire an inch of land. Which is the priority project - the railway line or the airport in Malkangiri?”
Congress leader Tara Prasad Bahinipati held the BJP and the BJD responsible for the delay of railway projects. "The BJP and the BJP are two sides of the same coin. The railway project between Jeypore and Nabarangpur has been going on for the last 20 years. But there is no end in sight.”
Ruling BJD leader Rabi Narayan Nanda held the Central government responsible for the delay. “Whichever parties are at the centre, they have neglected the railway projects in Odisha. The Railways Ministry which is supposed to carry forward the projects has shown little initiative so far."