Delayed Beed-Parli railway line fuels election duel

BEED: The idea of a train ride between Parli, Beed and Ahmednagar has conjured up imagination for three generations here, proving to be perfect fodder during the poll season.

It is no different now. Rallies taken out while filing nomination forms for the ongoing Lok Sabha election at Beed saw NCP leader Dhananjay Munde lash out at his cousin and sitting BJP MP Pritam Munde for failing to keep her word of bringing the railway line.

Pritam’s elder sister and state minister Pankaja Munde was quick to retort at another rally that the railway line had almost reached Beed district at a pace that was making Congress-NCP envious.

Represented by almost all the entire political spectrum since Independence, poll rhetoric over the railway during elections is nothing new here. Keshav Mangrulkar, a retired government employee from Beed, can vividly remember the castles built in the air during the past elections.

“Not just me, my children and grandchildren have also been hearing the same assurance. In short, our wait for the railway is three generations old,” he says with a sarcastic smile.

Residents here feel rail connectivity will open doors of new opportunities and employment. The Beed Lok Sabha constituency, spread over some of the most parched areas of the region, has seen little or no development. Most youth here move to other villages and towns in search of work.

The 261-kilometre railway route between Ahmednagar-Beed-Parli was approved in the early 1990s. Since then, besides a couple of foundation-stone laying ceremonies, the work on the new track has not picked up much speed.

The project gained attention when late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, during his first LS election in 2009, assured voters that he would campaign for the next polls riding on the train. He managed to fetch total budgetary allocation of nearly Rs 400 crore during that term.

With change of guard at the Centre in 2014, the railway project was chosen to be directly monitored by the Prime Minister’s office (PMO). The ruling BJP made all attempts to commission the rail line from Ahmednagar to Beed before March 2019 but land acquisition and other issues proved to be an hurdle. Now, piles of gravel and rubble, iron rods lying on the ground and a concrete mixer working in the background at Palwan village, about eight kilometre from Beed, show that the long-cherished dream is still some distance away.

Chandra Prakash, deputy chief engineer with Central Railway, Ahmednagar, said a trial run on 35-km route from Ahmendagar to Solapurwadi near Ashti taluka, was successfully conducted in February.

“We came across land acquisition issues from Bawi, Kapsi, Daithan and Hatola villages from Ashti taluka and a few other areas, which consumed considerable time. In some areas, people want more compensation. In a few other areas, locals opposed when we returned the excess land we had initially acquired,” he said.

The new deadline for the railway line from Ahmednagar to Beed is March 2020. “The necessary earthwork and construction of bridges is almost complete. We do not foresee any hurdles in expediting the work,” a senior railway official said.

On the other hand, laying the track from Beed to Parli could be done by December 2020 as this route passes through plain terrain and has few curves and hills as compared to the other route, railway officials said. Anant Borkar of advocacy group Marathwada Railway Action Committee, said rail connectivity could help Beed overcome its tag of being a backward district in the region. “The rail connectivity comes with a set of advantages. In future, Beed could emerge as a major junction as it would be in the routes covering major pilgrim places in Maharashtra,” he said.