BHUBANESWAR:The opening of 32 km stretch of the 289 km Khurda-Balangir railway line with much fanfare by Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday is an insult to the State.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who did not miss the photo opportunity, also has nothing to boast as only a fraction of the rail line, a vital link to Western Odisha, could be completed two decades after the project was sanctioned.
Ironically, though the survey work of Khurda-Balangir route was done before Independence in 1945, the project got the Central approval in 1994-95. However, work on the infrastructure project was started in 2007.
While a number of railway projects, including Khurda-Balangir rail line, is victim of Central neglect, allocation of only Rs 195 crore for the project in the 2015-16 budget speaks volumes on the NDA Government’s commitment for the State’s infrastructure development.
The Railway Board has sanctioned 112 km stretch of the 289 km line which is estimated to cost about Rs 460 crore. The Ministry had planned to complete the next phase till Raja Sunakhala measuring 14 km by March, 2015 and the next 66 km stretch till Nayagarh by the end of 2015-16 financial year.
However, the Union Minister’s assertion that the railway line will be extended up to Raja Sunakhala by September is nothing but a cruel joke on the State.
The Khurda-Balangir line, which has been a politically sensitive project, given the inordinate delay in its completion, was originally estimated at Rs 1,000 crore. However, the 20 years that witnessed low budgetary provisions and issues of land acquisition delayed the project and shot its cost close to Rs 2,000 crore.
The Railway Minister said talks are on with the State Government for promoting a joint venture (JV) company for development of railway infrastructure. Profits to be generated by the proposed company will be ploughed back into the State.
Prabhu announced the establishment of a skill development centre at Begunia as part of Skill India Mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.