Saturday, January 17, 2009

CM writes to PM, Lalu, demands Rs 1,520 crore rail package

The Pioneer, Jan 18, 2009
Pioneer News Service | Bhubaneswar

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday wrote letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad urging them to take steps for establishing a rail coach factory in the State. Patnaik also mentioned how the State has been a subject of negligence in the hand of the Centre over the years.

Seeking a Rs 1,520-crore package for an overall development of railway network in the coming Railway Budget-2009-10, Patnaik pointed out that the railway route length and rail density in the State was well below the national average as also substantially lower than that in the neighbouring States like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. The package demanded timely completion of the ongoing projects, sanctioning of new lines, undertaking surveys for new projects and improving passenger amenities at stations.

Mentioning how Orissa generated maximum revenue for the Railways, Patnaik said the earning should be spent on expansion and augmentation of rail network here. "Railways should ensure allocation of sizeable part of the revenue generated from Orissa within the State for expanding and augmenting rail network," he stated, adding that efforts should be made in connecting the KBK districts with rail connection. "KBK projects may be categorised as national projects," Patnaik added. It may be noted that railway aims to earn Rs 5,000 crore from Orissa in the coming financial year.

Patnaik also pointed out that the proposed rail coach factory could take advantage of steel and aluminum projects in Orissa. "The plant may be put up in one of the backward districts," he said, adding that establishment of a rail coach factory in backward district could foster the growth socio-economic growth and able to generate a large number of employment. Earlier, the railway authorities had announced two coach factories would be established one each at Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.He also mentioned about the Bhadrachalam Road (Andhra Pradesh)- Malkangiri- Jeypore-Junagarh- Lanjigarh road- Talcher- Bimalagarh, Khurad- Bolangir, Bhumara- Chakula and Banspani- Barbil rail lines.

Patnaik also demanded for doubling works of Daitari- Banspani, Talcher- Sambalpur and Haridaspur- Paradeep, Cuttack- Barang and Rajatgarh- Barang rail link. Patanik also demanded for a Satabdi Express from Puri to Paradip and another express train from Hoawarh/Salimar to Paradeep. "A Jan Shatabdi Express between Bhubaneswar and Rourkela is very much required," Patnaik said, adding that a new train service from Puri to Pune via Sambalpur via Titlagarh has also become essential and Bhubaneswar-Keonjhar express needs to be extended to Jamshedpur via Bansapani. Patnaik also demanded increasing of the frequency of a number of trains.

Orissa asks for a coach factory

Hindu Business Line, Jan 17, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: Seeking establishment of a rail coach factory in the state, Orissa government on Saturday asked the Centre to implement a Rs 1520 crore package for overall development of railway network here, official sources said.

In separate letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Railway minister Lalu Prasad, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the state remained neglected in terms of railway network.

“Railway route length and rail density in Orissa is well below the national average as also substantially lower than that in neighbouring states like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar,'' Patnaik stated in the letters seeking a sizeable allocation in the coming railway budget for the state.

Reminding the Centre that Orissa generated maximum revenue for the railways, Patnaik said the earning should be spent in expansion and augmentation of rail network here. Stating that the proposed rail coach factory could take advantage of steel and alum inium projects in Orissa, Patnaik said that the plant might be considered in one of the backward districts.

“Establishing a rail coach factory in backward district could become the key driver of regional socio-economic growth while generating a large number of employment,'' he said.

It is understood that two such factories were announced at Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. One such unit in Orissa would address regional imbalance, he said. - PTI

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lack of rail network in K’mal may have led to violence

The Pioneer, Jan 16, 2009
Er Lalit Patnaik | Bhubaneswar

For last few months Orissa has been in the news globally but for all wrong reasons. National and international media gave wide coverage to the recent violence in Kandhamal. But there was hardly any report that focussed on the causes that led to such a situation. Interestingly, most of the people missed out the fact that the lack of railways connectivity to this backward region could have been one of the reasons for violence in Kandhamal.

Poor tribals and other deprived sections of Kandhamal have been isolated from mainstream Orissa because of lack of railways connectivity. The district is a hilly region and does not have proper communication with neighbouring cities.

Interestingly, Railways have always played an important role in economic development and rapid social transformation across the globe, as it is a cheap mode to transport. Unfortunately, in a poor and backward State like Orissa, development of rail network has received very less attention of the Union Government ever since Independence. This is one of the main reason for the backwardness of tribals’ and other areas of the State.

The poor railway connectivity continues to keep them backward and deprive them of catching up with the mainstream. Due to lack of connectivity, the tribals cannot intermingle with the outside world and hence, their social transformation failed to take place. Also, their products cannot be transported easily to city markets and they are forced to dispose goods at throwaway prices in the local markets. As a result, traders come to Kandhamal and take away things at very less price.

In Kandhamal, the populations of tribals and SCs are 51.51 per cent and 18.21 per cent, respectively. Therefore, the demand for railway line connecting Lanjigarah, Phulbani and Angul that would bisect Kandhamal region and also the upcoming Khurda-Balangir rail link to serve as a bypass between Bhubaneswar and Koraput region is gaining momentum. People in Kandhamal are eagerly waiting for the proposed rail links. The rate of return (RoR) from this rail link will be more than 14 per cent, which is required by the Railway Board to sanction a new line. The rail link will shorten the distance between the coalmines in Angul district and bauxite mines in Koraput district by more than 100 km.

Aluminum major Nalco at Angul transports coal to its refinery plant in Koraput and brings back alumina to Angul. So, this reduction in distance will also save time in transportation and enhance the rate of return. Other aluminum companies like RSB, Vedanta and Hindalco will follow suit and the new line via Kandhamal will earn more than 20 per cent RoR.

Besides transportation by major industries, other commodities to Rayagada, Koraput, Malkangiri, Kalahandi and Nuapada districts will also pass through this line via Khurda as it will be shorter by more than 200 km vis-a-vis the existing rail link passing through Andhra Pradesh.

As for a blueprint on railway network expansion in Orissa, Prof Chitta Baral of the US-based Arizona University has done an extensive as well as intensive study on the subject. He has been educating policy makers and public in general on the importance of a good railway network. He has documented the current railway scenario in the State for preparing the blueprint for its expansion. According to him, the country's transport map clearly shows that Orissa has a very low rail density vis-a-vis other States and a majority of this low density region in the State is located in KBK and Kandhamal districts.

The question arises why rail connectivity is important for any region. The Planning Commission addresses this as follows: Railways have always played an important role in economic development and rapid social transformation all over the globe. It is one of the key economic infrastructures. However, it is most unfortunate that in a poor and backward State like Orissa, there is very less development of rail networks due to apathy of the Central Government since Independence. There are as many as seven districts, Boudh, Kandhamal, Deogarh, Nayagarh, Kendrapara, Malkangiri and Nabarangpur, which do not have a railway line passing through them. In 1998-99, the density of railway line length per 1,000 sq km of area in Orissa was only 15.03 km as against 42.66 km in West Bengal and an average of 19.11 km in the whole country.

Consistent with the above report, the KBK and Kandhamal districts are among the most backward districts of the country. They are also Maoist-infested, have high tribal populations and lack proper connectivity. In essence, they are another frontier of India like Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East. It is very unfortunate. So why the Indian Railways is still apathetic in establishing connectivity to KBK and Kandhamal even after knowing the above facts is difficult to understand. The railway authorities often cite the profitability issue. But if it can lay unprofitable lines in J&K and the North-East and plan to convert gauges of over 12,000 km of loss-making routes, why is it turning a deaf ear to persistent pleas of the people of Orissa for establishing rail links in this backward region?

It is a well-known fact that the Indian Railways is making huge profit from its cargo operations in Orissa.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Civil Society favor K'mal rail, Bhubaneswar:9/January/2009

Civil Society of Orissa will demand railway connectivity to Kandhamal.

So the members of the Civil Society will stage dharana in front of the Orissa East Coast Railways (ECOR) headquarters here on 3 February.

They will also present a detailed picture of the continuous neglect and step motherly attitude of the Indian Railways to Orissa

It seems that they have lost high hopes pinned on Kalyan Coomar Jena.

People from all walks of life in Orissa were very happy as Mr.Jena took over reins of Indian Railways.

Least said is better about the Chairman of Railway Board, said many members of the Civil Society.

During Jena’s tenure, Bihar got the maximum and Orissa as usual suffered a lot.

There are only cosmetic changes and lollypops for Orissa, lamented they.

So the leading members of the Civil Society are furious with the Indian Railways authorities.

They have decided to vent anger in public in a peaceful way on 3 February here.

Their main demand is to connect Kandhamal with railways network.

People from all walks of life participated in the meeting held here on 7 January and they voiced the demand for new rail line in Kandhamal.

They were unanimous over the issue as they felt that once the connectivity will be there, the problem will eased.

Professor Chitta Baral, leading voice of NROs gave out details how Orissa has been neglected during Lalu Prasad Yadav regime when Mr.Jena is the Chairman of the Board.

Among others Braja Kishore Tripathy, MP, Sibaji Pattnaik, former MP, Dhananda Mishra, Narendra Mishra, Sudarsan Das also raised pertinent issues.

Engineer BC Praharaj, Ajaya Pattnaik, Bimal Mishra,Rajesh Mishra and SN Mishra pointed out the requirement of the state so far railways infrastructure is concerned.

Political personalities including Sura Jena, Biswanath Mohapatra,Tapasi Praharaj, Deba Parija, Bikram Swain vented their ire against the authorities.

Social activists like Tusar ray, Sashiprabha Bindhani, Madhu Bhai, Manoj Jena, Abhaya Singh, Pradipta Pradhan, Dillip Sabat also spoke on the occasion.

More than 70 members of the Civil Society and at least 20 from Kandhamal participated in the brain storming.

ECOR was represented by TK Joshi and Sanjay Mishra.

Civil Society has decided to organize a meeting prior to 3 February in Kandhamal to raise awareness.

It has been decided to publicize a composite document on Rail neglect in Orissa.

The meeting was organized by Agami Odisha, Swabhiman Odisha Munch, Loksamukhya and Focus Orissa.

All Participant organizations almost vowed to make the people of Orissa aware about Railway neglect and fight for the Railway infrastructural development in Orissa.

Er.Lalit Mohan Pattnaik of Agami Orissa coordinated the meeting.