|Naveen Patnaik and
D.V. Sadananda Gowda
Bhubaneswar, July 6: The Naveen Patnaik government has urged the Centre to create three new railway divisions in the state in the event of Visakhapatnam division being taken away from the jurisdiction of the East Coast Railway.
In a letter to railway minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda, chief minister Naveen Patnaik has suggested that the new divisions could be located in the mineral rich belt of Jajpur-Keonjhar, Rayagada and either at Rourkela or Jharsuguda.
The East Coast Railway’s jurisdiction extends up to Durvada in Seemandhra. The letter argues in favour of three new divisions in the mineral-rich regions of the state that will give a big boost to the state's economy.
The letter was sent last week following reports that the Visakhapatnam division, will become part of a new railway zone being proposed for Seemandhra.
Although the state government officials confirmed that Naveen has written to the Union government expressing the state’s concern over the proposal, they refused to divulge the contents of the communication.
Sources said that the letter has pointed out that the East Coast Railway was formed in 2003 taking Khurda, Sambalpur and Vishakhapatnam divisions. Of the 1106 railway lines in the Vishakhapatnam division, 410 km lines are passing through Rayagada and Koraput districts of the state. But, nearly 80 per cent of the revenue generated by Visakhapatnam is from Odisha.
The ruling BJD, which had been harping on the central neglect during the Congress-led UPA regime, could be in a tight spot if Centre takes away the Visakhapatnam division from the East Coast Railway without the state being given adequate allocations for development of railway.
The railway budget is scheduled for introduction in the Lok Sabha on July 8.
“The railway budget could be a turning point for our relation with the BJP at the Centre. We have said that the BJD will have a positive approach towards the NDA government. To us, being a regional party, our state’s interest is paramount,” said a senior BJD leader.
“We are aware that the mood in the country is in favour of the Narendra Modi government. But, we cannot afford to sit and become a mute spectator when the state’s interest is ignored. Despite our constructive approach towards the Centre, the BJP in the state has been targeting us from day one,” said the leader who did not want to be quoted.
However, BJD’s Lok Sabha member Arjun Sethi is hopeful that the Centre will meet the aspirations of the state.
“We are positive that the chief minister’s demand for more allocation of funds by the railways will be met by the Narendra Modi government.”
Another issue that bothers the BJD relates to the Polavaram dam. Odisha has been opposing the project and has made the dam issue part of its poll campaign.
The Centre will be introducing a bill to regularise the ordinance relating to transfer of certain areas of Telengana to Seemandhra to facilitate the multi-purpose irrigation project.
BJD vice-president and Rajya Sabha member Kalapataru Das said: “When the bill on Polavaram will be taken up for discussion, we will certainly object to it. Our concern is that the approval of the tribals of the affected areas should be taken into consideration. The height of the dam should be reduced.”