(From left) Tourism minister Ashok Panda, transport minister Ramesh Majhi, MP Prasanna Patasani, chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu and Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan flag off a train at Bhubaneswar railway station on Monday. Picture by Ashwinee Pati
Bhubaneswar, March 20: Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu today assured that his ministry would create an e-market space for traders to sell state's handicraft products, especially those made by self-help groups in tribal dominated areas.
Prabhu made the announcement at a ceremony held to launch several railway projects, including two escalators and a lift, to boost passenger amenities at Bhubaneswar railway station. He also announced that local and popular Odia cuisine would be introduced in the e-catering system.
Prabhu's e-market promise came following a request by Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was also present at the ceremony. "A number of self-help groups prepare indigenous food products such as poda pitha, arisa pitha and handicraft products. The members of these groups will benefit if their products are sold through the IRCTC's e-portal," Pradhan had said.
Inaugurating the facilities, Prabhu said: "Earlier, people had to visit airports and malls to use lifts and escalators. Now passengers at railway stations can also use these facilities. We have also decided to develop a few railway stations at par with facilities provided at airports. We need co-operation from the state government to augment infrastructure at railway stations in the state."
A man steps off the new lift at Bhubaneswar railway station on Monday. Picture by Ashwinee Pati
The two escalators have been installed at platform No. 6, while the station's only lift will be available for passengers between platform Nos. 2 and 3. A railway official said the lift was only for the use of senior citizens and differently-abled persons. The escalators were installed for an estimated Rs 1.65 crore, while Rs 43.98 lakh was spent on the elevator. More than 10 lakh passengers visit the railway station every month.
With more than 130 trains originating or passing through the station every day, visitors and commuters have long demanded a lift and an escalator there. In June 2013, the East Coast Railway had installed two escalators at platform No. 1.
"The provision of escalators and lift will help the elderly and will encourage people not to use railway tracks while moving from one platform to another. The authorities should maintain the facilities," said Amit Das, a commuter.
Pradhan also urged Prabhu to conduct a monthly review of the state's development of projects. "This has been a long-standing demand of Odisha to allocate sufficient funds for development of railways. With budgetary allocation of more than Rs 5,000 crore for the 2017-18 finscal, the railways will get a boost. I urge the minister to conduct monthly reviews in presence of railway officials and state government officials," Pradhan said.