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Hope for six pending links

Ranchi, Feb. 25: The plan to lay 506 km of railway tracks in Jharkhand received a fresh lease of life after railway minister Lalu Prasad agreed to fund 50 per cent of the costs.

Now, the Madhu Koda government has ensured that there are no further bottlenecks on implementing the Rs 3,272-crore project lying in limbo since 2001.

On the eve of railway budget 2008, the signals from Jharkhand were encouraging: the state finance department okayed funding the six railway projects — while the Arjun Munda government had decided not to contribute to the cost of these projects, Madhu Koda, for once, managed to walk the talk. Now, hopefully the return signal from Delhi will have Lalu Prasad flag off some new railway ventures for Jharkhand.

Transport commissioner Sunil Kumar said that the delay in completing of the projects led to escalation of costs to Rs 3,272 crore from Rs 1,997 crore. “So, it needed the finance department’s nod before seeking the approval of the state cabinet to renew the MoUs with the railway ministry.”

But the MoU between the state government and the railway ministry expired in February 2007. After Lalu Prasad agreed to fund 50 per cent of the costs, the government got cracking a week back. “We are now processing other details to remove bottlenecks like land acquisition,” he added.

Transport secretary Sajal Chakraborty said several petitions seeking clearances from the forest department were pending with divisonal forest officers. “We are pushing the Lohardagga-Tori line, to be funded by Coal India,” he said.

According to the MoU, the government was to bear 66 per cent of the total costs. Though the Babulal Marandi government made partial payments to ensure the railways began work, his successor Munda adopted a hard line, asking the railways to bear the entire costs. Thereafter, he stopped releasing funds —the state’s contribution — for the projects.

 

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