V Kishore Chandra Deo
Sept. 11: Union minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo has proposed Visakhapatnam as coastal Andhra’s capital and a realignment of rail zones, including shifting the South Eastern Railway headquarters from Calcutta, once Telangana is created.
Deo, a Congress MP from Visakhapatnam (Vizag) that is part of coastal Andhra, has made the suggestions in a letter to a committee headed by defence minister A.K. Antony. The panel is examining how the concerns of the region can be addressed and a smooth division of Andhra made possible.
Deo’s proposal is aimed at minimising the impact from Telangana’s creation and the plan to rearrange railway zones is aimed at giving Visakhapatnam extra amenities.
Zonal headquarters bring a lot of development work, jobs for many residents and work for labourers to maintain the railway network.
The rail network in coastal Andhra now comes under South-Central Railway, based at Secunderabad in the Telangana region. Once Telangana is created, coastal Andhra will be deprived of any railway zone headquarters, Deo said.
He has proposed shifting the headquarters of the East Coast Railway, now located in Odisha capital Bhubaneswar, to Visakhapatnam.
To compensate Odisha, the South Eastern Railway (SE) hub should be transferred from Calcutta to Bhubaneswar, the Union tribal affairs minister has said.
But the suggestion has raised hackles in Bengal and Odisha.
Asked about the Calcutta-related proposal, junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury said “there’s no such plan.”
Trinamul spokesperson Derek O’Brien said he hadn’t heard about the idea. “It would be unfair for me to comment on what the minister has said.”
But another Trinamul leader mocked the Congress. “They (the Congress) are not sure whether they will last the next six months and now they say they want to shift (railway) offices.”
The outcry was shriller in Odisha, with the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) planning demonstrations at stations for three days from tomorrow. State Congress and the BJP leaders have also slammed the idea.
“The headquarters of the East Coast Railway were set up in Bhubaneswar in 2003 after a long struggle. The proposal seems to be a conspiracy hatched by the Congress-led UPA government. We must oppose it unitedly,” finance minister and senior BJD leader Prasanna Acharya said.
But Deo said “the whole thing has been misunderstood” while adding he had not written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge on the issue.
“It is not my intention to deprive Odisha. If my suggestion is accepted, the entire rail network of Odisha will come under the SE zone (based in Calcutta). I have suggested that the SE headquarters be shifted first. Then the EC headquarters can be relocated to Visakhapatnam.”