Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bolangir: The much awaited Khurda-Bolangir railway project is yet to see light of the day due to the 'inordinate delay' in the land acquisition process by the Odisha government.

As part of the Khurda-Bolangir railway project, so far, rail line has been set up for only 19 km - from Bolangir to Bichhupali. As per an RTI report obtained from the Indian Railways, due to lack of land acquisition the project is getting delayed.

The idea to connect Bolangir, the business hub of Western Odisha with Khurda was envisioned way back in 1945, but funds could only be allotted for this project only in 1994-95, when Rs 400 crore was earmarked for the project. But delay in the project has multiplied the estimated cost by at least 10 times making it a staggering Rs 4000-crore project.

Odisha and the Centre entered into an agreement for the project in 2015, which stated that the project will be completed in six years and the land required for the project will be made available to the railway at free of cost by the State government within 30 months.

Hemant Panda, an RTI activist said, “While Odisha government is continuously shedding crocodile tears alleging that the Centre is not providing enough funds for the project, the railway has clearly stated about the State government's failure in providing the required land for the project.

As per the reports, Rs 195 crore was provided in 2015 railway budget for this project. Similarly, Rs 240 crore in 2016, Rs 700 crore in 2017, Rs 625 crore in 2018, Rs 350 crore in 2019 and Rs 520 crore was earmarked in the 2020 railway budget.

Meanwhile, the State government is hopeful of completing the land acquisition process by September 2020.

Ruling-BJD leader Ananga Udaya Singhdeo said, “Odisha government is very keen to complete the project and I hope that the acquisition process will be over by September or October this year.”

Bolangir MP Sangita Kumari Singhdeo said, “Odisha government has assured the railway to provide the land needed for the project by August 2020.”