NEW DELHI, Feb 25 – Coming ahead of the Assembly polls, Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee has left the Assam Congress MPs elated, as the Rail Budget has showered projects like no other recent budgets.
Imphal, capital city of Manipur is yet to have rail connection but the Railway Minister today proposed to set up a diesel locomotive centre in the State. Similarly, there are some other ambitious announcements like proposal for line survey connecting Shillong-Chandrapathar, Tirap-Lekhapani, Sivok-Mirik, Silghat and Tezpur and Dibrugarh-Dangri via Tinsukia Town.
A proposal was made to set up a rail industrial park at New Bongaigaon. The Guwahati-Lumding-Tinsukia-Dibrugarh line along with Jogighopa to Guwahati via Barpeta-Sathebari tracks have been proposed to be doubled, besides North Lakhimpur-Along-Silapthar tracks. The doubling of Guwahati-Tinsukia-Dibrugarh tracks was a long-pending demand.
A new train Rajya Rani Express shall include one train in Assam Silghat-Dhubri Intercity Express (tri-weekly) via Guwahati-Kokrajhar-Jogighopa. Among the 56 new express trains proposed to be introduced included Guwahati-Dimapur (Daily) Express.
A new passenger service proposed to be introduced included Silghat-Chaparmukh Passenger, while frequency of New Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express has been increased from six days to daily.
Banerjee’s please-all Budget, though, has left the AGP and Opposition MPs not too pleased, and they described it as routine with no significant project proposals.
The Budget has left the Congress MPs all smiles. Bhubaneswar Kalita, reacting to the Budget, appreciated Banerjee’s gesture and said that the Railway Budget would greatly benefit the North-east in general and Assam in particular. “We have got several projects, which are more than we hoped for,” he added.
“North-east is our priority area and receives government’s full support. Imphal, the capital of Manipur would soon be connected to the railway network. I have planned in advance. Therefore, I propose to set up a diesel locomotive centre in Manipur,” Banerjee said.
A non-lapsable fund for railway projects in the North Eastern Region has been created that would boost the progress of projects. All the state capitals of this region except Sikkim would get connected by rail network in the next seven years, Banerjee declared.
As reported by this newspaper, last month the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure had cleared the proposal made in the last Railway Budget to create a non-lapsable poll for implementation of nine national rail projects in the North-east.
Rangiya station is among 286 stations selected for up gradation with safe drinking water, pay and use toilet, high level platforms among others.
The Railway Minister also announced completion of targeted 700 km of doubling of tracks including New Guwahati-Digaru line. The fresh target for gauge conversion of 1,017 km included Rangiya-Rangapara North.
A few other doubling projects proposed in the Budget included Barpeta Road-Tihu, Jogighopa to Silchar via Pancharatna, Mukongselek Pashighat, Naginimora-Amguri, Rongpo Gangtok, Salna-Khumtai and Sarthebari-Changsari sections. Next year, Karimganj-Mahisasan tracks are proposed to be taken up for gauge conversion.
Under rail tourism, 20 stations including the Kamakhya station has been identified for improvement in partnership with Ministry of Tourism. Both railways and Tourism ministry would share the cost on 50:50 basis.
A surprise exclusion in the budget was the suggestion of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region to extend the DEMU services to select stations in upper Assam. The Ministry had held meeting with the Railway Ministry and the DoNER Minister, Bijoy Krishna Handique, had written to the Railway Minister.
Meanwhile, reacting to the Budget, Paban Singh Ghatowar welcomed the Budget and said several important projects have been announced. He hailed the creation of the non-lapsable pool and said it would go a long way in completion of the national projects. He also appreciated the increase in frequency of New Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express.
Kumar Deepak Das of AGP expressing his displeasure at the Budget said that aspiration of the people of the State have been crashed, as several of the long-pending demands like electrification and doubling of tracks have been yet again ignored in the Budget. He also remarked that only two new projects and three new trains were proposed.
Commenting on the Railway Budget, Biswajeet Daimary said that they were not totally dissatisfied with the Budget and hailed the decision to set up a rail industrial park at New Bongaigaon. But he lamented the delay in electrification of tracks in Assam because of which important trains like Duronto Express have not been introduced so far.