GUWAHATI, Aug 25 - Welcoming the call of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for regrouping of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), the Assam Rail Passengers’ Association (ARPA) has however cautioned against any attempt to politicise the nomenclature of zonal railways.
“We have been demanding regrouping or bifurcation of the NFR since 2006 by separating the portions of Bihar and West Bengal which fall in the NFR and making the zone a dedicated one only for the north-eastern states. We are grateful to the Chief Minister as he has now come out in support of a long-standing demand of the people of this region,” said Dipankar Sarma, secretary of ARPA.
Sarma said, “However, in asking for regrouping of NFR, the Chief Minister has called for setting up of North East Railway in this region. That has created confusion because a separate North Eastern Railway or NER zone already exists with its headquarters at Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. So even if NFR is regrouped, there cannot be another North East Railway.”
Sarma said that the best thing would be to bifurcate the Bihar and West Bengal portions of NFR and merge them with other zones headquartered at Hajipur and Malda respectively, and keep the nomenclature of the Maligaon-headquartered NFR in the Northeast intact.
“It is ironic that when the Chief Minister made the demand for regrouping of NFR to Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, who also hails from our State, none of the senior officials present at the meeting pointed out the simple fact that NER already exists in Gorakhpur. The general managers of NFR and NFR (Construction) and the Chief PRO of NFR were present at the meeting between Sonowal and Gohain, but none of them thought it proper to clarify the matter. Are they so much afraid of ministers that they even dare not point out technical mistakes?” wondered Sarma.
He said that with the Chief Minister now himself calling for regrouping of the NFR, the process should be set rolling immediately.
“We hope that by the next Budget, we will finally achieve our dream of having a separate railway zone solely dedicated to the north-eastern region. This will not only help in boosting passenger and freight services but also help our region secure a bigger chunk of funds for development of rail infrastructure and for our educated unemployed youths to secure jobs in the Indian Railways as now most of the benefits are taken away by Bihar and West Bengal,” said Sarma.