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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: With the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman going to table the all-important Union Budget 2020-21 on February 1, all eyes are fixed on her ‘all-right signal’ for the fast-tracking of rail infrastructure in Odisha.

It is so because FM Sitharaman will also be laying down the Railway Budget 2021-22 along with the Union Budget on coming Monday.

For long, Railway Budgets have been the rolling stocks that steam a great deal of politicking, though the steam-rolled engines were a past shadow of the Indian Railways.

While the ruling BJD here has upped the ante on the BJP-led Centre to allocate a whopping Rs 7,200 crore for Odisha, the opposition Congress has demanded a Rs 10,000 crore package for the State’s rail projects. And the State BJP, which didn’t wish to become a punching bag, reels out the hard stats like Odisha receiving an average budget grant of Rs 4,368 crore per year during the period of 2014-20 as against Rs 838 cr per year during 2009-14.

In the backdrop of Rail Budget 2020-21, which saw a slashing of Rs 220 crore from the budgetary grant for the rail projects in the State allocated in 2019-20, what will be the fate of Odisha this year when the budget is following the pandemic year?

RAIL BUDGET FOR ODISHA: A DRIVER OR DOOM?

With the prediction by a recent report from ICICI Direct that hints at pegging the capital expenditure of railways at a whopping Rs 1.79 lakh crore for the year 2021-22, there are indications that Odisha rail projects will also be witnessing a capital boost this year.

“The total allocation for new line projects in Odisha is likely to be in the range of Rs 3,700 – Rs 4,200 crore this year,” disclosed a senior official in the ECoR here.

ECoR sources further observed that under the network development plan in this budget the rail projects traversing through the districts like Nuapada, Kandhamal, Koraput, Angul, Keonjhar and Jagatsinghpur will get a boost.

NEW LINE PROJECTS 2021-22

As per highly placed sources, following are the new line projects that the rail budget this year may focus.

  • Khurda – Balangir new line – capital outlay may be hiked to Rs 100 crore. And total allocation, including extra-budgetary resources, is projected to touch around Rs 600 crore.
  • Sambalpur – Goplapur via Phulbani new line project may get an outlay of Rs 100 crore.
  • Angul –Sukinda project may see an allocation of Rs 450 crore.
  • Talcher – Bimalagarh project may see a lesser allocation of below Rs 100 crore as the project has hit the land hurdle. The progress of the project hinges on land acquisition by the State government.
  • Talcher – Angul with Y-connection at Talcher may see an allocation of over Rs 50 crore.
  • Jeypore – Malkangiri, Nuapada – Gunupur via Theruvali and Jeypore – Nabarangpur new line projects may receive a capital boost in this budget.
  • All 14 survey works in Odisha completed.
  • The budget may include a new line project of Junagarh – Nabarangpur
  • The budget may propose quadrupling of existing lines in Odisha Economic Corridor (Khurda-Cuttack-Jagatsinghpur/ Jajpur-Kendrapara-Bhadrak).
  • The tripling of lines may be proposed for sections like Cuttack – Barang, Cuttack – Paradeep, Haridaspur – Paradeep, Nergundi – Cuttack and Talcher – Budhapank.

As per sources, the Railways are planning to lay triple lines in the high-density route of Howrah – Chennai that passes through State’s coastal districts, especially in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack sections.

TEJAS POWER FOR ODISHA?  

According to sources, Odisha may not see any Tejas train this year as the State doesn’t figure in the country’s high-speed rail corridor routes. The reason for not being in the Tejas list is the absence of cities with 1 million-plus population, poor passenger flow to city pairs (means a city in Odisha connected to another city in the high-speed corridor) either in AC rail or air trips etc.

DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDOR

The budget may give a capital boost to the East Coast Freight Corridor from Hijli near Kharagpur to Vijayawada, which will pass through Odisha.

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