Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Letter to PM

To: Dr. Manmohan Singh Prime Minister India

Cc: Mr. Arjun Singh, Minister of HRD, Government of India

Cc: Mr. Lalu Yadav, Minister of Railways, Government of India

Cc: Mr. Chandrasekhar Sahu, Union Minister of State, Government of India

Cc: Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister, Orissa

Cc: Members of Parliament from Orissa
Cc: Media

Subject: KBK and other adivasi areas of Orissa and India can not be left behind while rest of India marches forward with high speed rail; metro rail and freight corridors

Dear Dr. Singh:
First we would like to convey our heartfelt thanks for your recent higher education initiatives that you outlined in the last Independence Day speech; in particular, the announcement regarding 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, and 30 new central Universities with 16 of them going to states that do not have any central university. We sincerely hope that in picking the locations for these institutions you will keep in mind that for 60 years no IIT, IIM or central university have been established in Orissa. As a rapidly industrializing state, our highest priority is a new IIT. Following that, since there already exists 23 central universities, and you plan to have 30 more, and Orissa has none yet, our next priority is to have two new central universities in Orissa. We also request that the central university that is proposed to be in the KBK region should have multiple campuses so that it can cover the vast and tribal areas of KBK and because of the very high tribal and backward population in that area this university should be treated at par with the central universities in the north east. Again, we thank you from our heart for your initiatives and thank the HRD minister Mr. Arjun Singh for his role in this.

The above initiatives have restored in us some of the faith that we had earlier lost in your government. Now we would like to point out another burning issue with respect to Orissa that needs to be urgently addressed.

That issue is Rail connectivity to the hinterlands of Orissa, such as the KBK and other tribal districts of Orissa. As you are very well aware these areas are the most backward and poor areas of India; they have a very high tribal population; and are also infested with extremists. One of the important steps in uplifting these areas is making them well connected to the rest of India. That is where Rail Connectivity comes to picture.

As one of the earlier planning commissions has noted

in http://planningcommission.nic.in/plans/state plan/sdr_orissa/sdr_orich2.doc

"Railways have always played an important role in economic development and rapid social transformation in all parts of the globe. It is one of the key economic infrastructures. However, it is most unfortunate that in a poor and backward state like Orissa, development of rail networks has received much less attention of the Central Government in the post-independence period. There are as many as seven districts like Boudh, Kandhamal, Deogarh, Nayagarh, Kendrapara, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur out of the 30 districts of the state, which do not have any railway line passing through them. In the year 1998-99, the density of railway route length per 1000 sq. km of area in Orissa was only 15.03 km as against 42.66 km in West Bengal and 19.11 km. at all-India level".

The Railway ministry has grand plans for the 11th plan period that includes two freight corridors, high speed rail, and metro rail in several areas and it has a budget of Rs 251,000 crores. While non of these high flying plans (2 freight corridors, high speed rail segments and metro rails) are in Orissa, we are not in a position to rue over that; rather we request that while the rest of India marches forward with 2 freight corridors, high speed rail segments and metro rails during the 11th plan KBK and other adivasi areas of Orissa and India be not left behind. The particular lines we are referring to are:

1) Khurda - Balangir

2) Gunupur-Theruvali

3) Lanjigarh Rd – Bhawanipatna – Junagarh – Nabarangpur- Jeypore – Malkangiri – Bhadrachalam Rd (Andhra Pradesh)

4) Talcher – Bimlagarh

5) Bangiriposi -Gurumahishasini and/or Buramara-Chakulia.

6) Badampahar-Keonjhar

Often the Railway ministry and Railway board has labeled some of the pending lines in these areas as unprofitable and has given them such a low priority that at the current rate of funding (annual allocation less than the inflation) these lines may never be completed.

While the railways calculation may show these lines as unprofitable; they are not unprofitable if one considers how much Indian Railways earns from these areas. For example, the ECOR GM Shri Surendra Singh Khurana in his Independence Day address (available at http://eastcoastrailway.gov.in/custom/press_release/index.php) while talking about ECOR, said: "With only 4% of the track of Indian Railways, we cater for about 12% of total loading of Indian railway and about 7% of total earning of IR." In regards to profitability, for the 2003-2004 and 2004-05 the working expense as part of gross earnings of the ECOR zone is the second best at 66.64% and 61.75% respectively. The profit making zones in those years were South east central (62.8% and 56.1%), ECOR (66.64% and 61.75%), North central (76.33% and 66.71%), Central (80.29% and 82.48%), South eastern (81.24% and 83.51%), South Central (85.72% and 83.62%), West Central (80.99% and 84.08%), South Western (91.35% and 86.15%), Western (93.21% and 90.85%), Northern (91.08% and 92.89%) and East Central (93.65% and 98.9%). The loss making zones were: metro Kolkata (247% and 264.38%), North Eastern (151.93% and 160.88%), Northeast Frontier (147.98% and 159.45%), Eastern (161.3% and 152.84%), Southern (118.55% and 120.79%) and North Western ( 106.26% and 104.98%).

So, if the Indian Railway is making 7% of its earning from ECOR and a much higher percent of its profit from ECOR is not it unfair to give only 4% of its track to ECOR? This means profit and revenue from ECOR is being ploughed into rest of India. Nothing wrong with that per se, except that the part of ECOR that is neglected is the most backward part of India, and has a high tribal percentage. Some of these tribals, without proper connectivity, risk their lives and travel on the roof of freight trains. Does India and Indian Railways want to take money and investment away from the tribal and backward areas to enrich its metro residents?

Dr. Singh: Is that the India of your dreams? Is that the equality and inclusiveness that you talk about in your speeches?

We don't think so!

Perhaps this has not come to your notice. Perhaps your current planning commission has not brought this to your notice. It is our sincere request that you look at this issue and include in the 11th plan the completion of the earlier mentioned lines and the establishment of a few rail factories in the backward and tribal areas of India, possible 1-2 in the KBK districts.

(Additional data points are in the attached document.)


Chitta Baral
133 Kanan Vihar, Phase 2
Bhubaneswar, Orissa

-- Chitta Baral
Professor, Arizona State University

1 comment:

Rajesh Toppo said...

Respected PM,
The Open Letter to Prime Minister of India by Mr.Baral is a clear, well documented and genuine demands of the people of Orissa. The UPA team you lead is glued togather by hidden regional agendas and unknown political ambitions. We the Tribals of Orissa, are also the poorest in India. We have No voice in a parliament dominated by shouting bullies and ignorant MP's. Our feeble voice is well documented by Mr.Baral, an academician. Hope you will do Justice to your distinguished career and bring some relief to the millions of Tribals of KBK region.