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Naveen bats for rail grant

Bhubaneswar, June 4: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today sought an allocation of Rs 3,160 crore for the state in the coming rail budget while describing railways’ investment in Odisha as “grossly” inadequate.

During his meeting with railway minister B.V. Sadananda Gowda in Delhi, the chief minister also said that railway density in the state was only 15km per 1,000sqkm — which was significantly lower than the national average of 19km.

Naveen said while the state contributed over Rs 14,000 crore to the ministry, accounting for one-tenth of its total revenue, the investment of the railways in the state was “grossly inadequate”.

Among the major railway projects languishing in the state, the chief minister sought completion of the Khurda-Balangir project sanctioned in 1994-95, Haridaspur-Paradip project, which was set rolling in 1995-96, and the Talcher-Bimlagrah project, which was taken up in 2004-05. “These need to be completed with the allotment of sufficient funds,” said the chief minister.

Naveen also urged the railway minister to complete the doubling of Khurda-Puri line and modernisation of Bhubaneswar railway station on a war footing in view of the Nabakalebar festival in Puri next year. Sources said most of Naveen’s demands elicited a positive response from the new railway minister. Gowda, however, said some of the projects could be delayed because of problems such as forest clearance and land acquisition.

Last year, the state government sought an allocation of Rs 3,050 crore for the state in the rail budget, but only Rs 868.82 crore was sanctioned provoking protests from BJD MPs in the Parliament. Similarly, an allocation of Rs 723 crore was made for the state in 2012-13 against its demand for Rs 2,345 crore. To make things worse, the railway ministry slashed around Rs 280 crore from this amount later in the year.

In February, the state government expressed its unhappiness over the allocation made for Odisha in the interim rail budget with Naveen describing it as a “big disappointment”.

Sources in the BJD said things might take a turn for the better with the regime change at the Centre, especially since the chief minister has expressed that his government would have a positive attitude towards the Modi-led NDA. “We hope for the best,” quipped a BJD leader.