NEW DELHI, Feb 12 – Claiming that extension of rail connectivity to the North Eastern States has been a focus area of the UPA Government, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge today said that with the additional financial support sanctioned by the Prime Minister, the Rangiya-Murkongselek gauge conversion project would be completed within this year.
The interim Railway Budget presented on Wednesday by the Railway Minister, who took over only eight months ago, was marred by interruptions over the Telangana issue, forcing him to cut short his maiden budget speech. The Opposition MPs of Assam, including those belonging to AGP and BJP, slammed the budget, describing it as most disappointing.
“The extension of rail connectivity to the North Eastern States has been a focus area of our government to bring prosperity to these areas and also strengthen national integration,” he said.
“I am happy to inform the august House that as a result of additional financial support provided to the Railways at the instance of the Prime Minister, we are now on course to convert the strategically important 510-km long Rangiya-Murkongselek metre gauge line into broad gauge within this financial year,” he announced.
The capital of Arunachal Pradesh would soon be on the country’s rail map in this financial year, as Harmuti-Naharlagun new line is expected to be commissioned shortly. Meghalaya, too, is all set to feature on the railway map in this financial year, as Dudhnoi-Mehendipathar line is getting completed by March 2014.
At least 73 new trains are being introduced, including 17 premium trains, 39 express trains and 10 passenger trains in the interim budget. Three trains will be extended and the frequency of the same number of trains will be increased.
The Minister also announced launching of premium trains christened ‘Jai Hind Express’. For the North-east, the weekly Kamakhya-New Delhi AC Express via Chhapra, Varanasi and Kamakhya-Chennai AC Express (weekly) via Malda, Howrah, has been converted into premium trains.
A premium air-conditioned special train was introduced on the busy Delhi-Mumbai sector with shorter advance reservation period in December last. The fare charged included a dynamically varying premium over the Tatkal fare of the Rajdhani services. “We are considering operation of this scheme on a larger scale,” the Minister said.
In the passenger train segment, Dekargaon-Naharlagun passenger (daily) is proposed to be introduced after completion of the new line.
The gauge conversion of Rangiya-Rangapara-North Dekargaon (145 km) has also been proposed.
Meanwhile, reacting to the railway budget, senior BJP leader Bijoya Chakravarty said that there is nothing in it for the North-east. “Whatever has been proposed in the rail budget is insignificant. The North-east has been cheated yet again,” she asserted.
The general secretary of North East MPs’ Forum and AGP MP, Biren Baishya also said that the budget has no mention about the national projects and the proposal for special funding for execution of the projects. The Railway Minister made no mention about the completion of the Bogibeel rail-cum-road project, and the Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion projects, Baishya alleged. All in all, this is a disappointing budget for the North-east, he said.
Staff Reporter adds: The Centre has once again deprived Assam and the rest of the North-east in the interim railway budget, alleged the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in a press release issued today. The AASU said the Congress-led UPA Govt has been depriving the region in every rail budget presented during its tenure.