Mrunal Manmay Dash

There seems to be no end to the political mud-slinging among the major political parties in Odisha to secure as many votes as possible in the ensuing Padampur bypoll. After crop insurance and input subsidy, it is now Bargarh-Nuapada railway line that has been made an issue to target each other.

The issue was raked up on Sunday after Odisha Commerce and Transport Minister Tukuni Sahu wrote a letter to Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw urging him to sanction new railway line between Bargarh and Nuapada via Padampur.

Following the letter, while Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw replied to Sahu’s request, BJP’s MP from Bargarh Suresh Pujari reacted tersely terming Odisha’s BJD government as a party of liars in the country.

Replying to Sahu’s letter, Vaishnaw wrote that the onus lies with Odisha government as the State government's corporation, Odisha Railway Infrastructure Development Limited (ORIDL) has been entrusted with the project.

Citing Vaishnaw’s letter, BJP MP targeted the Odisha government on Monday. Addressing a press conference, Pujari said, “If a project is approved and placed in the blue book, it is certain that it will be undertaken. But to the Centre’s dismay, the Odisha government has not provided even an inch of land to the Railways to lay railway lines between Bargarh and Nuapada.”

If they are still asking the Centre to sanction the project, they are proving themselves as the biggest liar in the country.

The BJD was quick to reply to Pujari’s liar jab. BJD MP and Spokesperson, Sasmit Patra said, “There is a due process. First, a token is allocated by the Centre for the project, and then the project gets passed in the budget. Then only land allocation takes place. There isn’t a mention of Bargarh-Nuapada railway line even in the 2022-23 pink book. BJP should refrain from misleading the people of Padampur.”

Meanwhile, the voice of common man, the voters of Padampur has also gone louder for the railway project.

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had announced 142 kms-long Bargarh-Nuapada railway project with a cost of Rs 2407 crore on December 15, 2018. On January 11, 2018, the East Coast Railway had informed the Railway Ministry about the break-up of the estimated cost for the project.

Then on March 22, 2021, the State government announced that it has in principle agreed to provide all the required land for the project free of cost and an additional grant of Rs 300 crore to make the project financially viable to be constructed by the ORIDL with Ministry of Railway’s approval. Then the Railway Ministry approved the project in-principle on December 31, 2021.

However, the project is yet to see the light of the day and it has made the locals question the intent of both the State and the Centre.

A local resident of Padampur, Radhaballabh Panigrahi said, “Padampur is such a sub-division that a man needs to travel 80 kms to get to Bolangir, Bargarh is 80 kms away, even Khariar Road is 80 kms. Railway line is a must to facilitate travelling in the area.”

Another businessman in Padampur, Sunil Kumar Agrawal made Odisha government responsible for the delay in the project. “The ball lies in Odisha government’s court. The sooner land acquisition is completed, it will be better for the project,” Agrawal said.

(Reported By Harihar Chand, OTV)