Maiden railway engine 'chug chugs' into Arunachal hills
Arunachal Pradesh was informally put on the railway map of India on Tuesday with a railway engine renting the hills with 'chug chug' sound and blowing of repeated horns reached the state capital on its trial run from Harmutty.
Papum Pare Deputy Commissioner Pige Ligu along with LRSO Techi Hitlar joined the Northeast Frontier Railways Chief Engineer S C Rajak, Deputy CE T.T Bhutia and EE A K Sharma at Harmutty before the engine began its maiden journey to state capital up to Naharlagun railway station.
The ambitious railway line project estimated to cost Rs 156 crore (re-estimated at Rs 371.33 crore by the Railway Board on July 7, 2009), missed its target of December 2011 repeatedly.
Sarma, who is the project incharge, attributed the inordinate delay due to existence of five high tension power line poles along the tracks, forest clearance at Gumto area obtained only January 8 last.
As state's power department has informed to remove the high tension power line by March 15 next, the formal train service could begin from April next subject to clearance by commissioner of railway safety (CRS), Sarma said, adding only passenger trains would run, not goods trains.
Responding to questions, Ligu said that the state government would put a mechanism in place for checking the innerline permit (ILP) of the passengers. The ILP issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1973 is necessary even for an Indian citizen to enter Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.
Railway connectivity would be a gift of government of India for the land-locked people of this Himalayan state, said Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, while Chief Secretary Hari Kirshna assured all help to speed up resumption of train service.
The construction of 20-km Harmutty-Itanagar railway line was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on January 31, 2008 but former Rajya Sabha member Nabam Rebia armed with a memorandum of Arunachal Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) had pursued then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who in 2007 Railway Budget had ordered surveys for gauge conversion of Rangia-Murkongselek and Tezpur-Bhalukpong link lines besides updating of the surveys of the Harmutty-Itanagar railway line.
Highlighting the historical and mythological relevance of the state including the famous Parsuram Kund, Malinithan and tallest Shiva Linga of Ziro during a one to one interaction with the then Union MoS for Trade and Commerce Jairam Ramesh at Pasighat on January 15, 2007, an ACCI delegation led by president Techi Lala, general secretary Tarak Nachung and chief advisor B K Ghosh Dostidar had also demanded construction of 161-km Tinsukia-Parsuram Kund rail line to help tourists from all over India to put the holy place in global tourism map.
As the trade and commerce minister had assured to look into our demands, "your (Mr Yadav) personal attention, particularly as a descendant of Lord Krishna, would materialize the railway project and boost the high potential tourism sector of this Himalayan state, known as the last Sangri-La on the earth", red the memorandum.
Subsequently, the ACCI had also written to the PMO and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi besides forwarding copy to both MPs for follow up action, Nachung recalled today, and added that the rail link would boost the socio-economic development of this land-locked state. His reaction came after witnessing the engine running on the track.
Aimed at breaking the sense of isolation of the North East India, the Planning Commission had approved several projects for the NE during the 11th Five Year Plan.
The completion of ambitious 4.315-km Bogibeel road, 198-km Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam gauge conversion, 100-km Ziribam-Imphal extension project to link Manipur, the 108-km Kumarghat-Agartala, Jiribhum-Tulpul; Dimapur-Zuzba; Azra-Byrnihat the gauge conversion of Rangiya-Murkongsele, 84-km Badarpur-Bhairabi section for gauge link to Mizoram, and the 15-km Amguri-Tuli line would expand the rail network in the region.
It is commonly believed that the British rulers during 1858 to 1947 did more good to India than the Indian rulers did since then. For the British came as traders and undertook development work intended to flourish their trade. This was cited by Yadav, who in his 2007 Railway Budget speech had said: "Even the foreign government of the British had understood this fact and from 1833 to 1900, they built 40,000 km of rail track whereas we constructed only 8,000 km of rail track between 1947 to 1995".
Though the average rail density of India is 19.13 and the NE is one of the poorest, Assam stands at 31.9 while the ratio of other states (in descending order) is Delhi (138.2) followed by West Bengal (43.4), Punjab (41.6), Haryana (36.1), Bihar (35.9), Uttar Pradesh (35.8) and Tamil Nadu (32.1).
(Posted on 15-01-2014)