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Villagers’ nod to rail survey

Gangtok, Aug. 27: People of two villages in East Sikkim, through which a 3.5km stretch of the Sevoke-Rangpo railway lines have been planned, today gave their consent for a survey of the area.

The construction of the first rail line linking Sikkim to the rest of the country was stalled because of protests by the people of Khani Khola and Majitar against the survey.

The nod to the survey was given at a meeting attended by landowners, Central Pendam MLA Neeru Sewa, East District collector D. Ananadan and railway officials here today.

“There was confusion regarding the amount of land the railways would take for laying the tracks. The railway authorities explained to the people that a large stretch of the tracks would be laid on the government land, but the final area could be given only after a survey was conducted. So, the villagers agreed to the survey,” said the collector.

The landowners were represented at the meeting by the president of the Railway Affected Joint Action Committee, Kedar Pradhan, and other office-bearers. The committee was formed earlier this year by the landowners at Majitar and Khani Khola to voice their resentment against the acquisition of their plots by the railways.

Pradhan said a meeting by the villagers would be held on September 2 to know the opinion of all. With the committee agreeing to the survey, there is a little chance of people raising objections again. The railways said the survey would kick off on September 10.

IRCON International under the ministry of railways which is laying the tracks had requested the Sikkim government earlier this year to complete the land acquisition speedily.

“We can say how much land is needed for the tracks only after a survey is conducted. We will make everything clear if the villagers let us measure the land in the two villages and find out the likely alignment of the tracks,” the general manager of IRCON, K.K. Gupta, told The Telegraph.

He said it might take more than two days to conduct the survey. The 45km tracks between Sevoke and Rangpo will cut across the foothills of the Kanchenjungha range and the Teesta river valley. More than 30km of the line will pass through tunnels.