Sinha clueless on scrapping of Sitalapalli wagon unit

Bhubaneswar: Even as a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query revealed recently that the Centre has decided to shelve the proposed rail wagon factory at Sitalapalli in Ganjam district, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Railways Manoj Sinha on Saturday appeared clueless about the development and failed to clear the air on the issue.

Addressing the media on the sidelines of his three-day tour to the State, Sinha feigned ignorance about the development and said: “Since a huge number of wagons is being manufactured across the country these days, our priority is how to ease the congestion in the Odisha region.”

The Railway Ministry had responded to a query under the RTI filed by Bolangir-based RTI activist Hemanta Panda saying the unit can’t be set up due to ‘reduced wagon requirement.’

“Railways are unable to commence the project for setting up of the wagon factory at Sitapalli on account of reduced wagon requirement vis-a-vis available wagon manufacturing capacity in both private and public sector,” the reply by the Ministry of Railways read.

On the Narla wagon maintenance workshop project, which was announced in 2013-14 Railway Budget but was later shifted to Andhra Pradesh due to “feasibility” reasons, the minister maintained; “I have spoken to the State government regarding the Kalahandi project and we are making progress on it.”

Sinha’s statement on the Narla unit, which runs counter to what Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had said in April, has made the issue murkier.

After a discussion with chief minister Naveen Patnaik on the matter, Prabhu had then said, “There were proposals earlier for the establishment of a wagon maintenance workshop in Kalahandi and also at Sitalapali in Ganjam district. But funds have not been provided in this year’s railway budget. We have formed a working group to explore which project is commercially viable.”

It may be noted here that the first meeting of the joint working group to sort out the issue, which was supposed to be held within a month of the minister’s announcement, is yet to be convened.