Members of Mahanagar Congress Committee stall Baidyanath Dham Express at Ranchi station on Thursday during protests against the rail fare hike. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, June 26: The central railway fare hike seems to be chickenfeed compared to this.
Jharkhand has to stare at a 2016 deadline for five important track-laying projects to get complete, the cost of the joint venture between railways and state shooting up to Rs 5,775 crore, almost a three-fold hike from the Rs 1,997 crore originally estimated for work between 2002-07.
To nobody’s surprise, the project missed the first deadline. Now, state transport commissioner Manoj Kumar told The Telegraph the extended period according to the MoU with the railways had expired in March 2013.
2013 happened to be the year that supposedly marked the end of the extended tenure for six railway line projects. Totalling 565km of tracks, the projects were envisaged during first chief minister Babulal Marandi’s time for an overhaul rail transport of passengers and goods in the state.
Right now, only one is ready.
Of the six railway lines, Ranchi-Barkakana-Hazaribagh-Koderma (203km), Ranchi-Lohardaga-Tori (113km), Koderma-Tilaiya (14km), Koderma-Giridih (105km), Dumka-Rampurhat (64km) and Deoghar-Dumka (60km), the last is complete.
This apart, the Koderma-Giridih line is ready till Nawadih and Ranchi-Lohardaga-Tori one till Barkichapi. Others are trundling along.
To complete the rest, the railways want to extend the deadline to February 2016 for which a fresh MoU is needed. “Detailed proposals mentioning present-day costs have been forwarded to finance department and the state government. We are expecting an early nod,” Kumar said.
Sources say when the 2007 deadline failed, another MoU was signed in 2012 (with retrospective effect from 2007) wherein railways were supposed to complete the work by March 2013 at an increased cost of around Rs 3,771 crore.
Even the March 2013 deadline failed, leaving the railways and state saddled with a fat estimate of Rs 5,775 crore and a new deadline of February 2016.
The state has so far paid Rs 2,219 crore till 2012-13 fiscal against its original share of Rs 1,332 crore estimated in 2002.
When the project was estimated at Rs 1,997 crore in 2002, the state was supposed to share 66.66 per cent and railways 33.33 per cent. The state lobbied hard to persuade railways for a 50:50 cost-sharing basis.
But the inflationary estimates for February 2016 will cause cash-trapped Jharkhand to bleed some more.
“The state government needs to provide over Rs 1,000 crore to railways for which they need to make budgetary allocations in the state plan head,” said a source.
Top sources maintained that this year, only Rs 66 crore had been earmarked for railway projects by the state in the original budget while another Rs 30 crore set aside for the proposed Dumka-Hansdiha line in Santhal Pargana.
“How will the state earmark hundreds of crores for pending projects?” wondered an official.
On why the delays occurred, Kumar said Koderma-Hazaribagh-Ranchi project needed “realignment”. Off the record, officials cited land acquisition, forest clearances, rebel violence and laggard bureaucracy as the main causes.