BJP MP Raju Bista has demanded that a separate division being created for the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
While speaking on the motion in support of the railway budget in the Lok Sabha on Thursday evening, the Darjeeling MP said the narrow gauge DHR, which is declared as a world heritage property by the Unesco, had to be managed differently.
“It (DHR) is of a different technology, the driver is different, maintenance is different and a different set of skills is needed and does not fit with broad gauge. If a different division for the DHR is created, it will help in its uplift,” Bista said.
The DHR is under the Northeast Frontier Railway.
In 1878, Franklin Prestage, an agent of the Eastern Bengal Railway, foresaw the utility of a rail link between the hills of Darjeeling and the plains.
His scheme was mainly driven by hard economic considerations viz, the huge difference in the cost of essential commodities between Darjeeling and Siliguri, the need to carry out tea for export and the inability of the existing road to handle the growing traffic.
He submitted a scheme for the construction of a 2ft gauge railway line from Siliguri to Darjeeling.
According to the DHR’s official website, Prestage in a detailed scheme submitted to the government of Bengal and approved by Lt Governor Sir Ashley Eden, pointed out how a railway could substantially reduce the cost of transport between Darjeeling and the plains and cited how a ton of rice in Darjeeling would cost almost thrice the price in Siliguri.
The DHR was finally opened in 1881 and the world heritage status was conferred in 1999.
The Darjeeling MP also stressed the need to fill up vacancies in the DHR, provide permanent jobs to 14 apprentices currently working with the hill railway and the need to upgrade the Tindharia workshop. “The railway minister has given permission to set up a museum at the closed printing press,” said Bista.
Bista also alleged that “TMC cadres and those running the GTA were fighting among themselves for rail contract” on the ongoing Sikkim rail project.