Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: At a time when the Odisha government has expressed deep disappointment over the Railway Budget 2021-22 saying central allocations are not up to the mark, the Railways mentioned that the total budget outlay for the State this year (2021-22) is over 20 per cent more than the last year's outlay. The funding for Odisha in 2021-22 under all plan heads combined is Rs 6995.58 crore.

Speaking on Centre's allocation for Odisha in this year's Railway Budget, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said: "Ever since PM Narendra Modi took over the country's responsibilities, Odisha has always received positive news when it comes to allocation in the Rail Budget."

"Odisha had received per annum average allocations in the railway budget of Rs 838 crore between 2009 and 2014 while the same was Rs 4,126 crore between 2014 and 2019. Some people have been saying something without having facts. Every detail is in the public domain now, so I would request those questioning and speaking negatively about the budgetary allocation, to go through every single detail," added Pradhan while urging the State government to resolve the land acquisition issues creating problems in expansion of railway line in Sonepur, Boudh and Kandhamal.

Highlighting measures taken by the government for all sections of the society, Pradhan said PM Modi as a leader is 'decisive' and implements programmes that have been promised. "Our PM is a leader who faces challenges head-on by taking the entire country together," he said.

The total grant for Odisha in 2020-21 fiscal was Rs 5759.64 crore, and the total budget outlay for the State in 2021-22 is Rs 6995.58 crore - an increase of grant by more than 20% over last year, the East Coast Railways (ECoR) has said.

According to sources, the total fund allocation is for new lines/work in progress, doubling works, workshop and other important works, as well as railway electrification works in Odisha, with a focus on early completion of ongoing projects, as well as safety-related modernisation works.

The Railways said allotment has been significant for projects to be completed in 2020-21. "Funding is to ensure that no progress is hindered for lack of funds. There has been a significant increase in outlay for passenger amenities, road safety works, in terms of Road Under Bridge and Over Bridges, and LHS," it said.

At Rs 1000.50 crore against Rs 520 crore last year, the allocation for Khurda Road-Bolangir project has seen an increase of 92.4 per cent. Funding for doubling projects especially, Banspani-Daitari-Tomka-Jakhapura is Rs 228 crore against Rs 80 crore last year (an increase of 185%), Brundamal-Jharsuguda flyover (Rs 20 crore against Rs 10 crore last year), Bhadrak-Nergundi third line (Rs 229 crore against Rs 102 crore last year), Budhapank-Salagaon (Rs 215 crore against Rs 205 crore last year), Rourkela-Jharsuguda 3rd Line (Rs 230 crore as against Rs 170 crore, an increase of 35%), Narayangarh-Bhadrak 3rd Line (Rs 225 crore as against Rs 50 crore, an increase of 350%).

A quantum jump has been given to passenger amenities from Rs 129 crore to Rs 429 crore. This apart, Rs 400 crore has been sanctioned as against Rs 324 crore last year to eliminate level crossings of LC Gates.

The Railways said total budget outlay for development of infrastructure and safety-related works for Odisha is Rs 5528 crore for 2021-22, which does not include many other projects and estimates as they are not significant enough for mention at the ministry-level; however for East Coast Railway (ECoR) and Odisha, these are important development works.

Earlier today, State Transport Minister Padmanabha Behera termed the Railway budget allocation for Odisha as 'disappointing' and Odisha will get only Rs 4,500 crore which is much less than our expectation. "Our demand for State rail infra is not met. We had demanded Rs 7,200 crore but the budgetary allocation is Rs 4,500 crore, which includes Rs 500 crore for the Khurda-Bolangir railway project. There is no mention of newline or new project in the budget."

After the budgetary allocation, the State government in a release said, "No newline/project has been sanctioned by the Central government and the request of State for important lines such as Puri-Konark. Bargarh -Nuapada, Chakulia-Buramara, Jajpur- Aradi-Dhamra etc, was also ignored."

"The allocation of fund is actually reduced. What is shown in the capital budget as approximately Rs 4500 crore included Rs 500 crore of state for Khurda-Bolangir and the out of budget funding of Angul Sukinda and Haridaspur Paradip SPV lines. These SPV companies don't get any fond from the GoI and so the numbers shown are misleading and disappointing as against Odisha's demand of Rs 7200 crore. Also in the list of the Central Government, many completed projects are being shown to inflate numbers," stated the release on highlights of Railway Budget for Odisha.

"Allocations on individual important sanctioned work such as Talcher Bimlagarh, Jeypore Nabarangpur and Jeypore Malkanagiri are extremely disappointing. For example, for Talcher Bimlagarh - only Rs 10 crore is allocated which won't be sufficient to construct half KM. Projects like Gunupur Theruvalli which was sanctioned in 2018 is yet to be approved by Niti Aayog and so a token of only Rs 1000 is allotted," the release mentioned.

"Berhampur-Sambalpur line is planned for construction by State JV company ORIDL with self-funding. Yet it's shown in the budget but with a token of Rs 1000 allotment. There is no progress on railway workshops which were sanctioned long back like Wagon manufacturing unit at Sitalapalli Ganjam," it further said.

Odisha PCC chief Niranjan Patnaik also said that the Central grant in this year's rail budget is far below what was expected. "Once again Odisha has been neglected in the railway budget. They (government) have mainly focused on Chennai and West Bengal, in view of upcoming elections. I still feel there is a tacit understanding between the BJD and the Centre. BJD government is not doing what it should be doing," Patnaik said.

On allegations that Odisha has been neglected, State BJP General Secretary Golak Mohapatra said, "Those saying the budget has ignored Odisha's demands, should know that allocation is much higher than what was expected. Where were they (BJD) sleeping all this while? They did not utter a word during UPA rule."