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NE on priority list: Kharge

- Two weekly, one passenger train for region in rail budget

New Delhi, Feb. 12: The Northeast has been on the railways’ priority list with Rs 35,000 crore being provided for projects in the past 10 years, railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge said today.

This kind of work was not done during the BJP-led NDA’s term, he told reporters after presenting the interim rail budget in the Lok Sabha.

“As a result of additional financial support, we are now on course to convert the strategically important 510km-long Rangiya-Murkongselek metre gauge line (in Assam) into broad gauge within this financial year,” Kharge said while presenting the interim rail budget.

“The capital of Arunachal Pradesh will be on the rail map this financial year with the Harmuti-Naharlagun line expected to be commissioned soon,” he added.

The railway budget will be presented around June after a new government takes over following the general elections.

The region is set to get two new premium trains and a passenger train. Two weekly trains, Kamakhya-New Delhi AC Express via Chhapra and Varanasi, and Kamakhya-Chennai AC Express via Malda and Howrah, were included in the 17 new premium trains announced in the interim budget today.

The Dekargaon-Naharlagun daily, one of the 10 new passenger trains announced today, will commence services on completion of the new line, expected in April.

Meghalaya is also set to feature on the railway map this fiscal with the Dudhnoi-Mendipathar line expected to be completed by March, the railway minister said.

Terming his interim budget as growth-oriented, Kharge said during the last 10 years of the UPA rule, efforts had been made to provide more and more funds for the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir.

“Its (the railway’s) role in national integration by providing low cost connectivity from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on the one hand and Arunachal, Mizoram and Tripura to Gujarat on the other, is unparalleled,” Kharge said.

Reacting to the budget, AGP MP Birendra Prasad Baishya said, “This budget has nothing for the Northeast. It has been 16 years since the Bogibeel bridge and Lumding-Badarpur line began but there is no mention of it.” He said tall claims of huge funds do not reflect the ground situation of incomplete projects.

The Lumding-Silchar line, including branch lines (Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura), will be completed by the end of the Twelfth Plan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had committed at a meeting with chief ministers of the Northeast on January 20. The extended deadline for the branch lines is June 2016.

Six other projects to be completed in this period include the Rangiya-Murkongselek line and the Bogibeel rail-cum-road bridge in Assam, Kumarghat-Agartala and Agartala-Sabroom lines in Tripura, Tetelia-Byrnihat line in Meghalaya and Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal line in Manipur.

Of the 20 railway projects initiated in the Twelfth Plan for the region, 10 are national projects. There is, however, neither any sign of a double-track to the Northeast nor largescale electrification of the lines.

Additional financial resources of Rs 314 crore were made available in the current year to allow completion of Rangiya-Rangpura (Tezpur), Rangpura-North Lakhimpur and North Lakhimpur-Murkongselek lines, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Baishya said neither has the railway minister fulfilled the three-year-old promise of a public-private partnership project in Assam nor started a Duronto train to Mumbai that could help cancer patients from the region.