HUBBALLI: For want of land, major new railway lines being developed by the South Western Railway are stuck in limbo. Though the SWR authorities have taken up the issue with the state government, the process has not got the expected momentum. As a result, the railway zone is unable to spend the budgetary grants made against these projects.
Whenever the railways takes up any new project, the state government acquires the land and hands it over to them. Unless the railways gets 90 percent of the required land, it does not commence the tender process for allotment of work. As the majority of the new rail line projects have not got sufficient land, all are in limbo.
Among the project stuck are the Tumkuru-Chitradurga-Davangere, Gadag-Wadi and also the recently sanctioned Dharwad-Belagavi lines. All these lines not only cut the distance to reach other ends of the state from Hubballi but also save time, money and energy. They need to be taken by the authorities on a priority basis, but little is moving on the ground.
According to data sourced from SWR officials, for the 199-kilometre long Tumkur-Davangere line, the land in possession of the railways is in bits and pieces. A total of 930 hectares was needed but it has got possession of 53 ha, which is not even 10 percent. Since the land has become a contentious issue, the acquisition process is getting delayed.
The situation is similar for the 252-kilometre long Gadag-Wadi line too, which needed 1,598 ha land but only 616 ha is in the railway's possession, that too not in a single stretch. From Talakal, where the new line starts, 348 acres has been acquired, and at the Wadi end it has 268 acres. However, departing from regular practice, the SWR is planning to float a tender for laying a line between Talakal and Kushtagi.
If this is the status of the project which was sanctioned years ago, then you can imagine the fate of the new 73-km long Dharwad-Belagavi line, which just got sanctioned last year and needed a total of 335 ha of land. This long-pending demand was realised because of Suresh Angagi, but nobody is there now to push the project further at the central level and put pressure on the state government, though it has got Rs 50 crore budgetary grant.
However, the case is not the same with the new 103-km long Shimoga-Shikaripur-Ranebennur line which needed 335 ha because it falls in the Chief Minister's district. Admitting that the majority of the new lines are facing the trouble of land acquisition, except the Shimoga-Shikaripur-Ranebennur line, SWR chief public relation officer E Vijaya said recently that though the project was sanctioned two years ago, 50 percent of the land is already in its possession and they are expecting the other half soon.
Another senior official in SWR said the sum of budgetary grants for the next year for these four projects is Rs 350 crore and the money is unlikely to be spent in case the railway did not get the required land. In fact, SWR officials are regularly meeting top authorities in the government, but acquiring the land is the real challenge, the official added.