Northeast in Rail Budget 2012-13: Too little too late

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Has the northeast got its due from Dinesh Trivedi’s 2012-13 railway budget? The TOI wrote that the NE did get a fair share of new projects but given the historical sidelining of NE from the development priority this is too little too late.

The TOI’s conclusion is far from right when compared to this year’s budget as well. The Northeast got only three of the 75 new express trains proposed by Trivedi and there are six projects from the Northeast in a list of 84 sent for appraisal to the Planning Commission.

Except the rhetoric that all state capitals of the North Eastern sector except that of Sikkim would be connected through rail within the next seven years, it was all cosmetics once again. Here again there is hardly any clearly defined masterplan in place.

Rhetoric and cosmetic for two reasons: First our deadlines are invariably slower when compared to our northern neighbour i.e. China and second we still fail everytime to meet those deadlines. Like every year a host of new projects – New Coochbehar (West Bengal)-Golakganj (Assam), Harmuti (Assam)-Naharlagun (Arunachal Pradesh), Agartala-Udaipur (Tripura) and Jiribam (Manipur)- Dholakhal (Assam) targeted for completion in 2011-12 still remain to be completed. Similarly the progress on Jiribam to Tupul rail project in Manipur slow. Still, Northeast doesn’t have a single electric train.

But before we analyse the rhetoric let’s recap what the NE got from this year’s rail budget.

The rail budget proposed to connect Agartala in Tripura and Akhura in Bangladesh. It will also help cementing bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh. Provision for rail connection between Belonia in Tripura and Chittagong in Bangladesh has also been made.

The rail link with Bangladesh will also help in bringing down the time of travel as journey from Kolkata to Tripura via Bangladesh will be shorter.

Assam seems to be the focus of Trivedi’s rail budget. So came host of projects for Assam.
– Trivedi announced a survey project for railway electrification project for Assam.
– Rail minister also proposed bringing the northern banks of the Brahmaputra in Assam under rail connectivity. A railway link between north and south banks of the Brahmaputa up to Bogibeel Bridge will be completed this year. And a new line survey on the northern bank would be taken up for the Changsari-Tezpur route via Sipajhar, Mangaldoi, Kharupetia, Dalgao, Sialmari, Basimari, Routa and Orang.

Survey for new rail lines will also be carried out for the Imphal-Moreh route in Manipur and Furketing-Baghty Valley in Assam. It could take railways to the India-Myanmar border.

The new rail link between Dudhnoi in Assam and Mendipathar in Meghalaya has also been targeted for completion in 2012-13.

Assam also got four new trains – Kamakhya-Lokmanya Weekly AC Express, Kamakhya-Tezur Intercity Express, Dibrugarh-Kolkata Express and Rangiya-Tezpur passenger train. Kokrajhar and New Bongaigaon stations of Assam will be upgraded into Adarsh railway stations.

Assam has also got new projects sanctioned like doubling of the Lumding-Hojai railway stretch in Assam. Rangapara North-North Lakhimpur in Assam and Balipara-Bhalukpong gauge conversion projects have been also targeted for completion in 2012-13.

Other railway lines projects sent to the Planning Commission for approval also has Assam- Barpeta Road-Tihu, Chaparmukh-Dibrugarh in Assam, Dimapur-Tizit, Tuli Line to Tuli Town in Nagaland and Rupai-Parshuramkund via Mahadevpur, Namsai and Chingkham in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Manipur which had reasons to hope more from Trivedi, he being Trinamool Congress leader. But Trivedi’s budget has no specific mention about the diesel locomotive centre in Manipur announced by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in her 2011-12 railway budget. De facto, Manipur is still on India’s railway map.

So where do the NE stand?

Before we blame anybody let’s not deny that railway like any other industry doesn’t run on promises but oil and diesel. It’s an industry after all which requires funding to run itself. Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi was at least honest in accepting that there was a need of Rs 5 lakh crore to develop railways in the highlands of the Northeast and Kashmir. Where is the money?



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