Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Non-resident Oriyas rue Railway Board chief's attitude towards Orissa projects

The Pioneer, July 16, 2008
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

Non-resident Oriyas (NROs) are quite unhappy over the railway authorities' attitude towards the long-delayed projects in Orissa, including the Khurda Road -Balangir rail line.

Railway Board chairman Kalyan Coomar Jena, who hails from Orissa, was invited to the convention of the Orissa Society of Americas (OSA) recently held in Toronto in North America. Jena dismissed speeding up of the Khurda-Balangir project projects without significant contributions from the State Government on the plea that it is a social line.

The NROs repeatedly reminded Jena that the three zones operating in Orissa -- East Coast Railways (ECoR), South Eastern Railways (SER) and South Eastern Central Railways (SECR) -- are the highest profit-making zones, but Orissa and Chhattisgarh have the lowest railway densities.

The areas of concern are the connectivity to KBK districts and the other tribal districts of Orissa like Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh, which are among the most backward areas in the country. The proposed rail lines include the Khurda Road -Nayagarh - Balangir, Talcher - Bimlagarh, Naupada-Gunupur- Theruvali, Lanjigarh Road -Bhawanipatna -Junagarh-Nabarangpur-Jeypore - Malkangiri - Bhadramchalam - Bhadrachalam Road, Buramara - Chakulia and Bangiriposi - Gurumahisani-Keonjhar.

The NROs pointed out that the minerals extracted and transported from those districts are the contributing factors in making these railway zones highly profitable. If only Indian Railways had listened to the plea of Orissa and completed the Khurda Road-Balangir line, which it started 15 years ago, and the line from Jeypore to Malkangiri and beyond, the Maoist mayhems in Nayagarh and Malkangiri would have been avoided.

Some participants at the meeting like Purna Mishra and Chitta Baral were armed with statistics from various IR publications and web sites to counter the arguments of Jena. They rubbished the contention that the Indian Railways was only going after profitable routes. Prof Baral pointed out that the IR priorities include gauge conversion of 12,000 km, most of which is not profitable.

What made some of the participants really sad that the Railway Board chairman did not even sympathise when pointed out that while huge profits are made by ECoR, SER and SECR, the big money of the 11th Plan is going to freight corridors, high-speed rail and metro rails, none of which benefits Orissa. The NROs were of the view that the Railway Board Chairman was pursuing a highly bureaucratic approach.

Jena repeated that he has Rs 1,000 crore for Orissa, and breaking that up to various projects leaves little for social projects like Khurda Road-Balangir.

It was pointed out to him that when ECoR is estimated to make Rs 3,600 crores of profit during 2008-09, he is talking about only Rs 1,000 crore.

In addition, the NROs demanded that the IR, the largest employer in the world, must make two production units in the backward and tribal areas of KBK so that it indeed gives a fair employment opportunity to the tribals.

No comments: