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Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: With a special focus on ramping up of the rail infrastructure in Odisha, the rail budget 2021-22 has allocated a record Rs 5,528 crore for the development of infrastructure and rail safety alone, though the total budgetary outlay for the State has been pegged at Rs 6,995.58 crore.

The release of the railway Pink Book for the year 2021-22 has brought to fore the detailed outlay for the new projects and expansion plan of the rail network in the State. Simultaneously, the rail allocations also carry a message for Odisha

The record allocation of Rs 1,000 crore for the much delayed Khurda – Balangir new line for the year 2021-22 has signalled the State government that funds will flow into the projects that show good physical progress towards completion.

A look at the Pink Book 2021-22 reveals that the allocation for the new line projects, where the work is in progress, saw over 22 per cent rise to touch Rs 1,553 crore.

However, the fine print delivers the hint. The much delayed Khurda road – Balangir rail line alone has grabbed the lion’s share (over 64 per cent of the total allocation). The fund outlays for other new rail line projects in the State stand trimmed.

Sample this.

  • Angul – Sukinda: New rail line project saw the allocation of Rs 400 crore as against Rs 450 cr in 2020-21. The outlay in 2019-20 stood at Rs 250 crore.
  • Talcher –Bimalagarh: This new rail line project that received fund outlay of Rs 400 cr in 2019-20, has since then could see an allocation of Rs 100 crore/year.
  • Jeypore – Malkangiri: This project had been accorded all necessary sanctions last year. But the allocations dropped to Rs 28 crore per year since then.
  • Jeypore – Nabarangpur: The allocations for the project since the accordance of all necessary approvals have been hovering between Rs 10 – 20 cr. This year the outlay stands at Rs 15 crore.
  • Sambalpur – Gopalpur via Phulbani and Naupada-Gunupur - New broad gauge line up to Theruvali: Very meagre outlays have been made for the projects as the projects are yet to get the necessary approvals from the Railway Board.

WHY FUNDS SLASHED?  

“Hefty allocations were made for the projects in the State that have a good chance of completion in the coming financial year. Also, the projects clocking perceivable progress last year were given a capital boost in the budget. But projects where the land acquisition and forest clearances are proving a hurdle, only token allocations were made,” explained a DGM-rank officer in the East Coast Railways here.

A REALITY CHECK

  • Acquisition of farmlands in Jajpur is proving a hurdle for the Angul – Sukinda –Dubri new line project
  • The issue of land acquisition in Sundargarh side has halted the progress of Talcher – Bimalagrah new line project.
  • The same land hurdle impeded the progress of Jeypore – Malkangiri project.
  • However, as out of 289 km, 112 km acquired land had been transferred to the railway authorities – means nearly 39 per cent of the land rights transferred to railways, the project got a capital booster dose in this budget.

WHY MEAGRE ALLOCATION FOR OTHERS

As per the senior EcoR railway official,

“Two projects (Sambalpur – Gopalpur via Phulbani and Naupada-Gunupur - new broad gauge line up to Theruvali) will see allocation in 2023-24 only. Because the detailed estimate report is yet to receive sanction from the extended board of railways. This is a natural process of railways. There is no delay.”

The Bottom line: The railway budget for the coming fiscal has put the ball in the court of Odisha government. The sooner the forest clearances, rights of acquired land transferred, railways will pitch in with funds.

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