BARIPADA: Lack of railway connectivity is likely to play a crucial role in polls in Mayurbhanj Parliamentary constituency. The issue has been the candidates’ favourite poll-plank and this time too promises are being made to develop the rail infrastructure in the district. It has been on the back-burner since sitting MP of Mayurbhanj Rama Chandra Hansdah spent around four years of his tenure in prison for his alleged involvement in a chit fund case.
Call it irony but the erstwhile Mayurbhanj State was the among the pioneers to start a rail revolution in the State. The Rupsa-Baripada-Bangiriposi narrow gauge line was started by the erstwhile ruler of Mayurbhanj Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanja Deo.
The first section of the 52-km line from Rupsa to Baripada was inaugurated by the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal Sir Andrew Fraser on January 20, 1905. Rupsa was the junction for the Bengal-Nagpur Railway’s broad gauge line. An agreement was signed on December 2, 1918 between Mayurbhanj State and Mayurbhanj Railway Company, for extending the line to Talband, 61.5 km away. The section was opened on July 15, 1920 and the management of the entire section was handed over to M/S Hoare Miller and Co of Calcutta.
However, since then little has been done to connect the tribal-dominated district with other districts or states. Interestingly, even as elected representatives and Rajya Sabha member from Mayurbhanj have done little for development of railways in the constituency, former Balasore MP and now BJP candidate from Kandhamal Mahameghavahana Aira Kharbela Swain is credited for introducing broad-gauge line in the district.
“Despite scope for developing railway infrastructure in the district, nothing has been done to cater to the demands of people in the district,” said Abhijeet Ram, general secretary of Mayurbhanj Railway Travellers Forum.
He said the demands include a new express train between Baripada and Puri via Cuttack, increase in frequency of Shalimar-Baripada-Bhanjpur Similipal Intercity Express and change of its originating station from Shalimar to Howrah, extension of Tata Nagar-Badampahar DEMU passenger from Tata Nagar to Rourkela, construction of new station building and second line with platform at Baripada, conversion of Betnoti into crossing station and construction of Buramara-Chakulia, Bangiriposi-Gorumahisani and Badampahar link up to Keonjhar.
President of North Odisha Chamber of Commerce and Industry Devashis Mahanti said if the Keonjhar-Badampahar line is constructed and Rupsa-Bangriposhi railway line extended up to Tata Nagar, both SER and ECoR lines will be connected and the Chennai-Howrah railway line can be linked with Tata Nagar reducing the distance between the two metro cities by at least 100 km.