New Delhi, June 21: Defence Ministry has finally acknowledged the importance of railway connectivity in northeastern states. The ministry has asked the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission to make available non–lapsable funds to Railway Board for development of 14 strategic railway lines among which four lines fell in Northeast.
Key railway projects are Missamari (Assam) to Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh), North Lakhimpur (Assam) to Along (Arunachal Pradesh) and Murkongselek (Assam)-Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh).
Defence Ministry’s initiative came after the Railway Ministry announced that that some of its vital projects including railway connectivity along some strategic areas of country’s international border are severely hampered due to fund crunch. Lack of funds have affected Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam gauge conversion project along with other important projects. Railway official had said that these projects would be completed in March 2015, instead of March 2014.
The initiative taken by the Defence Ministry was disclosed by its secretary to the parliamentary standing committee on Defence in a meeting held in New Delhi with the view of speeding of construction of important railway roots.
The Defence Ministry has also informed to the parliamentary panel that funds have also been made available for construction of strategic roads by the Border Road Organisation (BRO).
Earlier, the panel had strongly emphasized that the issues of funding for the strategic roads and projects need to be taken immediately at the highest level.
“The adequate outlay for construction of the requisite infrastructure which includes strategic roads, rail, tunnels, etc should be ensured by coordination between the various ministries and the intervention at the highest level. Besides, the rail tracks should be constructed after taking specifications from and in consultation with the Army so that there is no compromise on the issue of speed of the trains,” the parliamentary panel in its report said.
Earlier, the government had allotted Rs. 1900 crore to create a dedicated North East Region Rail Development Fund (NERRDF) for railway’s national projects in the Northeast in 2011. The first was the Non-lapsable Central Pool of Resources created in the Union Budget of 1998-99 during the tenure of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajapayee.
Railway Budget for Northeast
The centre in its railway budget 2012-13 has proposed four new rail lines in northeast. For the first time the state of Arunachal has been brought into the rail network this year. Arunachal Pradesh will get its first Harmuti (Assam)-Naharlagun (Arunachal Pradesh) rail line this year. Manipur will be rail linked while the gauge conversion of Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam is under progress (national project). The gauge conversion work on the Lumding-Silchar and Rangia-Murkongselek lines has been put on the fast track. Two years ago, Tripura became the third state to be included in the railway network after Assam and Nagaland, and Meghalaya will soon feature in it.
Need for Railway connectivity in Northeast India
Landlocked northeast India is in urgent need of railway and road connectivity. Surrounded by four international borders this region has strategic importance in national security. Most parts of northeastern states are still inaccessible due to lack of connectivity. Taking advantage of India’s negligent attitude, China has done huge infrastructure development along with border. China has built more than 10,000-km-long rail lines in Tibet and other areas across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Considering this threat India needs to speed up infrastructural development projects along with international borders.