Railway Budget: Odisha chugs on hope express

Bhubaneswar: Despite the fact that the Centre has ‘shelved’ the proposed Sitalapalli wagon factory in Ganjam district, as per an RTI query, the State has kept its hopes high from the Union Railway Budget tomorrow on account of expediting the ongoing railway projects and sanctioning of funds for new projects especially in the unconnected and backward regions of the State.

In a letter to Union Railway minister Suresh Prabhu, chief minister Naveen Patnaik has requested the former to set up an Electric Locomotive Maintenance (POH) unit at Kalahandi. Setting up of concrete sleeper plants at Kantabanjhi (Bolangir) and Bandamunda (Sundergarh), and Skill Development Centres in KBK districts are among other projects mentioned by Patnaik.

In his letter the CM has demanded to sanction Rs 5,870 crore for Odisha in the Rail Budget, an increase of Rs 1188 crore from the amount allotted the previous year.

Seeking the Centre’s support to provide rail facilities to people in backward regions of the State, he demanded rail connectivity from Gopalpur to Singapur Road BG Line (via Padampur, Ramnaguda, Bakili), Bhadrachalam to Bimlagarh, Bargarh to Nuapada via Padampur and Talcher to Gopalpur.

The proposed rail links will traverse through the unconnected and backward districts which are full of natural resources, Patnaik said, adding they would also facilitate mineral movement by establishing linkage with southern Odisha and provide shorter connectivity to Gopalpur port.

“I request you to sanction these critical new lines in the forthcoming Budget, which can bring prosperity along with connectivity to the needy areas,” the letter said.

Reacting on the State’s demand, former Union Railway minister Kanhu Charan Lenka said the allocation must be utilised in a time bound manner. He said allocation gets refunded by many states as they fail to initiate and execute projects on time.

“Getting allocation is not a big thing. I fear the funds for Odisha, like other States should not be withdrawn by the Railway ministry. The State must prepare a blueprint on all the ongoing projects and execute it properly,” Lenka noted.

BJD MP Balabhadra Majhi, however, stressed that the ongoing projects should be funded enough to expedite the work.

“We are witnessing that many projects started five to six years ago, are running in a snail’s pace. The Centre must allot enough funds to complete these projects. This apart, new lines should be announced for the regions which are still unreached by the railways,” he noted.

Patnaik has also requested the Railways minister to initiate the East Coast dedicated freight corridor from Kharagpur to Vijaywada and east-west dedicated freight corridor from Jharsuguda to Bilaspur to ensure seamless movement of freight between the upcoming ports of Kirtania, Chidamani, Dhamra, Astarang and Gopalpur along Odisha coast along with major ports at Paradip and the vast north-eastern and central hinterlands of India.