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Train to nowhere
- Projects old, but deadlines new

The increase in frequency of a train to Delhi and new deadlines to already delayed railway projects, with a couple of new tracks thrown in as sops, meant that the Railway Budget managed to disappoint Jharkhand for yet another year.

While most people of the state expected the new railway minister to announce new trains to cities like Ahmedabad, Secunderabad, Indore and Bangalore, all he did was to increase the frequency of Ranchi-Delhi Garibrath Express from two days to three days a week.

Ranchi residents had been lobbying hard for a new Namkum-Kandra line. Instead, the railway minister announced a new line between Barwadih in Latehar district and Chirimiri in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, a move that would cut down the distance between Mumbai and Howrah by 400km.

Pawan Kumar Bansal also announced doubling of railway tracks between Garhwa Road to Ramna in Garhwa district and between Danea of Bokaro district to Ranchi Road in Ramgarh district.

The minister said that laying of tracks for Hazaribagh-Bes, Urwan-Hazaribagh and Barkakana-Sidhwar routes would be completed during 2012-13, while those between Bes-Kuju, Padma-Hazaribagh, Sini-Gamharia and Hazaribagh-Banadag would be completed by the end of 2013-14.

But, clearly, these announcements weren’t enough to win over a backward state serving time once again under President’s Rule. No wonder, politicians and passenger associations were united in their criticism of the railway minister.

“We are very disappointed by the railway budget. We had not expected such a degree of neglect by the Centre,” former chief minister Arjun Munda was blunt.

A few weeks before he stepped down as chief minister, Munda had written to Bansal, urging him to allocate a few new trains to the state, particularly for cities like Ahmedabad, Secunderabad, Indore and Bangalore.

This apart, he also sought some railway activity in economically sleepy places like Hazaribagh, Seraikela or Dumka. However, none of these requests were honoured.

Passenger organisations, too, could not hide their disappointment, dubbing Bansal’s budget as the harshest in the last few years. “Former railway ministers like Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav and even Mamata Banerjee did not neglect Jharkhand as much as him,” declared Ashok Nagpal, vice-president of Chotanagpur Passenger Association, about Bansal’s effort.

The state capital, however, figured in a list of 25 cities that would house centres for a national skill development programme meant for youths.

The proposed new 202-km railway line between Barwadih in Latehar district and Chirimiri in Chhattisgarh, would, however prove to be a boon for passengers travelling between Mumbai and Howrah.

“At present, the distance between Mumbai and Howrah is 2,177 km. Once the new railway line comes up, the distance between the two metros would be reduced by 400 km,” a senior railway official said about the project initiated in 2010-11 by Banerjee.

The new line would connect Howrah with Latehar via Dhanbad and with Mumbai via Jabalpur and Itarsi.