Ranchi, July 4: A high-level meeting chaired by chief minister Hemant Soren today set a deadline of March 2015 for completion of 400km of railway lines out of total 565km in the five big-ticket pending projects of Jharkhand.
Started way back in 2002 and scheduled to originally complete in 2007, the projects include Ranchi-Lohardaga-Tori, Dumka-Rampurhat, Deoghar-Dumka, Giridih-Koderma, Koderma-Tilaiya (in Bihar), Koderma-Ranchi (via Hazaribagh and Barkakana).
Chaired by Hemant at Project Building, transport minister Champai Soren, officiating chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty (who also holds the charge of transport secretary), development commissioner Sudhir Prasad, East Central Railway (ECR) general manager Madhuresh Kumar, chief engineer (ECR) B.P. Gupta, state transport commissioner Manoj Kumar, among others, attended today’s meeting.
“Of the total 565km of railway lines, work on 250km is complete while by November this year, 130km more will be made functional. By March 2015, work on 400km of track-laying will be complete,” ECR general manager Madhuresh Kumar is reported to have said.
Hemant directed officiating chief secretary to hold a meeting with railway officials at the earliest and sort out matters related to pending land acquisition, as well as law and order hurdles, if any.
Notably, the railways have been demanding extension of the memorandum of understanding for these projects till February 2016.
The original MoU between Jharkhand and Union railway ministry was inked in February 19, 2002 for six projects. It suggested completion in five years, that is by 2007, with an estimated cost of Rs 1,997 crore. The cost sharing deal was worked out at a percentage of 66.66 from the state government and 33.33 per cent from the railways.
As the projects could not be complete by 2007, it was extended in February 2012 with the aim to finish work by March 2013. The cost escalated to Rs 3,771 crore, with a 50:50 sharing formula.
State transport commissioner Manoj Kumar told The Telegraph that Rs 2,219 crore have been given to railways by the state till 2012-13.
According to the latest MoU extension sought by the railway ministry, it is proposed that work would complete by February 2016 with a further escalated costs of a whopping Rs 5,775 crore, almost thrice the original estimate.
So, the state would now need to give another Rs 1,002 crore to railways for which financial preparations are on.
However, in the 2014-15 budget, there is a railway provision of only Rs 66.18 crore, out of which Rs 30 crore are earmarked for a newly proposed Dumka-Hansdiha line in Santhal Pargana, home turf of Hemant and JMM supremo Shibu Soren. Only Rs 36 crore are left for other projects, placing an enormous burden on the supplementary budget.
So far, the sole saving grace of the original line-up of six is the Deoghar-Dumka project. Though delayed, the line is in use since July 2011. Ranchi-Lohardaga-Tori project is complete up to Badkichapi while Giridih-Koderma line is ready till Nawadih. But, the progress reports of others euphemistically state that they are “at different stages of completion”.