Bhubaneswar, May 4: The Naveen Patnaik government has put on punching gloves to take on railway minister Suresh Prabhu for his ministry's move to take away the Waltair division from the East Coast Railway.
The state government is angry as the step would reduce the importance and area of the East Coast Railway, which has its headquarters in Bhubaneswar.
Sources in the East Coast Railway confirmed that such a move had been initiated at the Union ministry of railways' level.
"The process has been initiated, according to the norms following reorganisation of Andhra Pradesh. But, there is no immediate impact," said a senior official associated with logistics of the development, adding that there was now a demand for creation of 12 zones and 28 new railway divisions across the country.
The railway board has sought opinion of all the Odisha MPs on this issue. Earlier, it had sought the opinion of the state government, which submitted its reply to the board.
Confirming the development, the state's commerce and transport minister Ramesh Majhi said: "We are opposed to any such move. The railway is getting nearly Rs 14,000 crore as revenue from Odisha. But, its contribution towards the state is almost negligible."
The minister said that in the event of Visakhapatnam or Waltair division being taken away from the East Coast Railway's jurisdiction, three new railway divisions should be set up in the state and its headquarters be located in the mineral rich belt of Jajpur-Keonjhar, Rayagada and the last one either in Rourkela or Jharsuguda.
"There are many pockets of Odisha which are still functioning under other railway zones. The railway should initiate steps to bring back all such railway networks under the East Coast Railway," he said.
Majhi said chief minister Naveen Patnaik had, in July 2014, written a letter to the then Union minister for railway D.V. Sadananda Gowda, opposing any such move. Sources said the chief minister stated that the state had a serious concern about creation of new zone for Andhra by bifurcating Visakhapatnam.
"We have raised serious objections to this, and I hope the ministry of railways will consider our just request to protect the interest of the backward regions of Odisha," the chief minister had stated in his letter.
The East Coast Railway was created in 1996-97 out of the South-Eastern Railway Zone. Even after its creation, it took nearly eight years to become fully operational. The Waltair division was brought under the East Coast Railway in 2003, and nearly 30 stations, including those in Koraput and Raygada districts, are now under its jurisdiction.
Out of 1,106km of railway line under this zone, nearly 410km are passing through Rayagada and Koraput districts. Now, three divisions - Sambalpur, Khurda and Waltair - are functioning under the East Coast Railway.
In another development, the Samajwadi Party state unit today sent a letter to railway minister Suresh Prabhu opposing the move.
"Creating a new zone out of the East Coast Railway zone is detrimental to the growth and development of Odisha," said its state unit chief Rabi Behera.