Board will discuss the bifurcation of NFR – Separate Railway Zone for North-East likely: Railway Minister

GUWAHATI: There has been a demand to bifurcate the NFR by excluding West Bengal and Bihar to focus only the North Eastern region. The Railway Ministry may discuss and look into the issue of bifurcation of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) zone and creating a separate zone which will have jurisdiction solely over the seven northeastern states while the existing areas of NFR located in West Bengal and Bihar could be turned into a different zonal railway, said Railway Minister Mr.Suresh Prabhu on Saturday. “We will discuss it. We will definitely consider,” Prabhu said when asked about any plans to finalise bifurcation of NFR in the Board. “It is a broader issue of demography and other things. It takes time, but we will definitely look into it,” the Minister said.

Speaking at a press conference after participating in the commencement of the railway electrification work between Raninagar Jalpaiguri and Guwahati at Maligaon this evening, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said that bifurcation or reorganisation of the NFR is part of a broader issue of development of the Northeast.

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To a question put by the media, if the Railway Minister would consider bifurcating the NFR and separating the areas of the Northeast from those of Bihar and West Bengal, the minister said, “We will discuss it. We will discuss whatever inputs we receive.”

Bifurcation of Maligaon-headquartered NFR with a separate zonal railway responsible solely for the seven northeastern states has been a long-standing demand of the people of Assam and other states of the region as well as various organisations, including the Assam Rail Passengers’ Association (APRA).

People and organisations of the Northeast have frequently alleged that most of the benefits, projects as well as railway vacancies are cornered by the NFR divisions falling in Bihar and West Bengal, while the seven states of the region remain deprived.

Earlier, Prabhu participated in a centralised event to mark the commencement of railway electrification work between Raninagar Jalpaiguri and Guwahati. The event also witnessed the commissioning of a 700-Kwp solar power plant at Guwahati Railway Station, inauguration of first class and second class waiting halls at Harmuti station, and inauguration of the RO Plant and Digital Chart Display System at the New Tinsukia station.

Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd, a Mini Ratna PSU under the Ministry of Railways, has been entrusted with the task of execution of the electrification project at a total cost of Rs 655.55 crore. Under it, the 382-km route will be electrified.

Prabhu said the Railway Ministry will also consider introduction of a special train that will cover all the major holy places visited by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankaradeva during his years of wandering across the country.

Prabhu’s comments in this regard came after Governor Banwarilal Purohit, during his speech at the function, urged the Railway Minister to introduce such a train which will cover all the major religious spots visited by Srimanta Sankaradeva.

Prabhu said the Northeast is the major area of focus for the Indian Railways. He said the Centre has invested Rs 19,000 crore in the railway sector in the region during last three years and a capital expenditure target of Rs 8,000 crore has been fixed for the region during the current 2017-18 fiscal.

The minister said that projects worth Rs 13,000 crore have been sanctioned for the region in 2017-18. The gauge conversion work in the Northeast has been completed, he said, adding, a special train will be started to promote tourism in the region.

Prabhu said his ministry is also working for promotion of the handicraft industry of the region as well as for self-help groups and medium, small and micro industries of the Northeast.

He said special focus has been given to generate employment in the Northeast and as part of the new catering policy of the Indian Railways, stalls and establishments at stations will be allowed to be opened only by those who have domicile certificates.

Prabhu said such steps can go a long way in addressing the employment issue among local youths of the region.