Station makeover hits mall wall - Naveen slams railways for project delay

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By SUBHASHISH MOHANTY
  • Published 27.03.12
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Bhubaneswar, March 26: A world-class railway station in Bhubaneswar remains a dream as the state government is yet to hand over the land required for the purpose to the authorities concerned. The government, however, has accused the railways, of not taking up the work.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, while reacting to the railway budget, had criticised the railways for not honouring its commitment to overhaul the station in Bhubaneswar.

However, a patch of the government land, which could have been used for expansion of the Bhubaneswar station, had been handed over to an industrial house, Reliance Retail, to set up a mall, which was inaugurated on March 16.

Sources said a plan had been mooted to set up the station at Barang on the outskirts of the city four years ago. A Chinese delegation, which visited the state twice in 2008 for the proposed project, had advised the authorities to convert Bhubaneswar railway station into a world-class facility instead of setting up a new one at Barang. Later, a blue print on the availability of land was also prepared.

According to the blue print, an area of approximately 95.26 acres had been identified around the Bhubaneswar station for developing a world-class station. The government was supposed to hand over the land on a lease to the railways. Some patches of land even outside the areas, identified in the blue print, were required for the project.

The then chief general manager, A.K. Goyal, had, on July 23, 2008, urged the state government to take steps to hand over the 95 acres required for the project.

An estimated amount of Rs 4,000 crore would be spent on turning the Bhubaneswar railway station into a world-class facility keeping in mind the growth in passenger traffic over the next 30 years.

The plan also stated that the project would be taken up in PPP mode, but no plan allocation has been made so far.

On the other hand, the land, on which the mall has come up, had earlier been leased out to the Odisha road transport department.

The landowner was the general administration department, which was supposed to have reserved the land for the rail project.

“Hundreds of files go to the chief minister everyday and it is not possible for him to scrutinise every thing. The officials concerned should be held responsible for this,” said a senior officer requesting anonymity.

Chief public relations officer of the East Coast Railway R.N. Mahapatra said: “The state government has not handed over the land to us as yet.” But director estates, general administration department, P.K. Rath tried to evade the issue. On being asked why the piece of land in question was handed over to the industrial group, he said: “I am busy and cannot answer your queries.”

In the state Assembly today, Naveen said that if the land (2.279 acres on which the mall stands) was required by the railways for the project, the government would provide an alternative plot to Reliance Retail.

Naveen was replying to a question asked by Congress MLA Naba Kishore Das.

The chief minister also made it clear that the railway authorities had not taken any decision on the plan or the design of the proposed world-class railway station. After the state government got to know this from the railways, the government approved leasing of land to Reliance Retail.