Conceived before independence, Khurda-Bolangir rail project still on long road to completion

Bhubaneswar: When PM Modi flagged off train services on the 19-km long Bolangir-Bicchupali section of Khurda-Bolangir railway project, it brought a new lease of happiness on the face of Yajna Kar, a local septuagenarian of Bicchupali area who has been hearing about the project since 1940s. But there is still a hint of displeasure in his eyes as the project is yet to be completed after such a long time.

With only 85 kms operational, questions have been raised over the timely completion of the Khurda-Bolangir railway project in Odisha, the idea of which was conceived before India’s independence.

“I am fully prepared to fight and take the issue to PM Modi’s door so that the project moves forward to completion as soon as possible,” said Kar.

One of the oldest railway projects of the country, the Khurda-Bolangir line was first conceived in 1945 but it actually got approval in 1994-95. During the initial stage, the budget estimate for the project was an approximately Rs 400 crore but after 25 years, the cost has escalated to a whopping Rs 4000 crore.

While the movement of train on 66-km-long Khurda-Nayagarh section from Khurda side has begun since June 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently flagged off services from the Bolangir side. However, there are still nearly 200 kms of railway track that needs to be laid while deadline has been set for March 2021. When only 85 kms have been completed in so many decades, questions are no raised as to how the rest 200 kms will be completed by March 2021.

As per Railways sources, nearly 327-acre of land in Nayagarh, 2059 acre in Boudh, 528 acre in Sonepur districts  are yet to be acquired.  The situation has now forced experts to question the viability of the deadline.

On one hand, while a political slugfest has began over the issue, the East Coast Railway authorities have admitted that the quicker the state government hands over the land, the faster the project will move towards completion.

Congress leader Hemant Panda said, “The current scenario clearly indicates that the project can never be completed within the stipulated time.”

Ruling-BJD Vice President Ananga Uday Singh Deo said, “The State government will very soon acquire land to ensure completion of the project on time. But if the PM comes to inaugurate just a section of the project, it seems like a joke due to politicisation of the issue.”