Shillong, Sept. 7: When Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma lays the foundation stone for a railway station at Mendipathar in North Garo Hills tomorrow afternoon, a new chapter will be scripted in the state’s 40-year history.
The first train is expected to chug into the Mendipathar railway station by March 2013 as the 19.47km broad gauge railway line from Dudhnoi to Mendipathar is already being constructed at a cost of around Rs 144 crore.
The track will cover areas such as Nolbari-Deuripara, Boromiapara, Chotomiapara, Mataranga, Manikganj, Horingkata, Bakenang-Tilapara and Mendipathar.
The first efforts to bring Garo hills on the railway map were made in 1994 when an idea was mooted to have a railway line from Dudhnoi to Depa Sarangma. The proposal, however, had to be abandoned because of stiff opposition from local people.
History stands testimony to the fact that railway connectivity has never been fancied in the “abode of clouds” as pressure groups and student bodies fear that once a train is allowed to chug into Meghalaya, the state may become an “abode of illegal migrants”.
Till date, groups like the influential Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) are opposed to the idea. They feel that the time for railway connectivity had not come yet as strong mechanisms to safeguard the indigenous people from being invaded by illegal migrants were not in place yet.
On the other hand, the Garo Students’ Union (GSU), another influential group, has welcomed the move to construct the Mendipathar railway station.
“We are not opposing it as we believe that the railway line and the railway station will help to uplift the economy of the area. The Garo hills are resource-rich, but hitherto, only middlemen have been able to gain benefits at the cost of the farmers,” GSU president Tengsak G. Momin said over phone.
He said with the coming in of a railway line, the producers would have the opportunity to create direct contact with buyers without having the need to go through middlemen. “In that way, they will be able to gain more profit.”
At the same time, Momin asked the government to adopt stringent measures to check the entry of illegal migrants. “We will discuss with the government to put in place mechanisms to strictly monitor the entry of illegal migrants so that they do not settle in any part of Garo hills.”
KSU general secretary Auguster Jyrwa said the stand of the union opposing railway connectivity in the state stood unchanged. “Even without railways, the rate of infiltration of illegal migrants into our land is alarming. And the grim scenario will aggravate once railways come in. We will not allow railways here.”
On the assertion that railway connectivity would help combat the galloping inflation, the KSU leader argued saying prices of commodities in neighbouring Assam, which has had railway connectivity for years, were nothing better.
Yesterday, while replying to questions in the state Assembly, state transport minister Abu Taher Mondal said a railway line from Byrnihat to Shillong had been sanctioned and the same would be completed by March 2018.