Guwahati, Aug. 9: A total of Rs 17,000 crore has already been sanctioned for the ongoing rail projects in the Northeast and the figure is likely to escalate as the railways grapple to complete the schemes, states an estimate prepared by the ministry of railways.
A source said this had been revealed in the masterplan for development of rail infrastructure in the Northeast prepared by the railway ministry. The plan was prepared in consultation with state authorities as mentioned in this year’s railway budget.
The masterplan states that the estimate is based on the sanctioned costs and the additional funds will be provided by the ministry of finance.
On the challenges, the plan states that the local contractors do not have the capacity to execute such large projects and those from other parts of the country are generally not willing to work in the area because of adverse conditions. The unwillingness was reflected in the Lumding-Silchar broad gauge conversion project when contractors refused to work because of unfavourable law and order.
The masterplan also cites law and order, militancy and heavy extortion besides difficult terrain, small working season and inadequate funding as problems that make implementation of the projects a stupendous task.
Eleven rail projects are under way in the region of which eight are national projects and are at different stages of completion.
To mention some important projects, the overall progress in the Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge (73km), a national project, in Assam is 58 per cent and its targeted date of completion is March 2014. The problems cited are land acquisition for road links and frequent destruction because of militancy.
The overall progress in the Jiribam-Imphal (125km) national project in Manipur is a mere seven per cent. The target date for completion is March 2016. The problems are security situation in the state, frequent bandhs and six weak bridges on NH 53 that need to be strengthened.
As for the 88-km-long Dimapur-Zubza national project in Nagaland, it has been found that the land rates given by the Nagaland government to the railways is exceedingly high and would put the project out of circulation. The state government has been asked to bring down land costs to a reasonable basis. The railways will soon inform the Nagaland government of the compensation rates being paid by it in other states of the region. The targeted date of the project’s completion is March 2015.
The overall progress in the 19.75-km Dudhnoi-Mendipathar railway line has been poor because of delay in acquisition of land by the Meghalaya government. The report says though the project will benefit Meghalaya, the state government has not fully co-operated in land acquisition. Frequent protests and bandhs called by the Rabha community have also hit the project. The scheduled date of completion is March 2013.
The masterplan commends the Tripura government for providing effective security at work sites and for movement of men and material for the Kumarghat-Agartala project and urges the other state governments to make similar arrangements.
At present, the railways have a network covering 2452.10km in the region, of which broad gauge is 1237.17km and metre gauge is 1214.40km. Of the seven sisters, only the state capitals of Assam and Tripura are connected now. New lines have been taken up to connect the capitals of Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
The railway investment in the region since 2005-06 has been Rs 5,684.90 crore.
The ministry thought of setting up a non-lapsable rail development fund for national projects but the plan is yet to be implemented. It has been proposed that 25 per cent of the funding will be done through railway gross budgetary support and the rest by the ministry of finance.
The financial health of the NF Railway is not good as it is spending more than it is earning. The operating ratio (indicator of money spent to earn an amount) of the NF Railway in the 2009-10 fiscal was 161 per cent, that is, it spent Rs 161 to earn Rs 100. A few years ago, the figure had touched 200.
“A large number of goods wagons go empty from the region as there is nothing much to be sent,” an NF Railway official said.