Demand for creation of a Separate New Railway Division for Rourkela gets a Boost

ROURKELA: Even as Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram for long has been pressing for creation of a new railway division at Rourkela, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s belated endorsement to the demand has come as a huge boost. Yet, while the two political stalwarts are trying to score points, it remains to be seen if Rourkela Smart City in Sundargarh Lok Sabha constituency of Jual manages to get its legitimate demand fulfilled.

Apparently, under pressure with the Andhra Pradesh aggressively seeking a new railway zone and Waltair Division likely to go to AP, Naveen on Friday shot off a letter to the Railway Minister seeking creation of three new railway divisions at Rourkela, Rayagada and Jajpur-Keonjhar Road under the jurisdiction of East Coast Railway (ECoR).It has been a long-standing demand to bifurcate Chakradharpur Division (in Jharkhand) of South Eastern Railway (SER) and carve out a new railway division under ECoR at the industrial hub of Rourkela comprising Odisha’s three industrial and mining districts of Sundargarh, Keonjhar and Jharsuguda.

SER sources said that Chakradharpur contributes about 70 per cent of SER’s earning and the three Odisha districts contribute about 75 per cent revenue share of Chakradharpur division. For instance, in 2014-15, SER’s freight revenue was Rs 6,062.81 crore and Chakradharpur’s share was about Rs 4,038 crore, including Rs 2,600crore-Rs 2,700 crore from Sundargarh, Jharsuguda and Keonjhar.A commercial officer of SER said loading-wise Chakradharpur division is the fourth most highest earning of Railways and after Jharsuguda-Sardega line of MCL in Sundargarh district becomes operational, it would leave the other divisions behind.

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Rourkela Development Steering Committee (RDSC) Chairman Subrata Patnaik said the required railway infrastructure growth in the three Odisha districts is not possible until the creation of a new division at Rourkela, adding that the Railway Ministry would have to look into this legitimate demand.

If old-timers are to be believed, at Bondamunda of Rourkela city, about 4,000- acre of land was provisioned in the 1960s for creation of a new railway division and setting up of a wagon manufacturing unit. Rail Users’ Association general secretary AC Baral said Rourkela is 180 km from Sambalpur divison of ECoR and 100 km from Chakradharpur division of SER, adding that at Bondamunda, the SER has country’s second largest marshalling yard.

Talking to this paper, Jual took a dig at the CM and asked, “Why the CM responded so late?” Jual said he has been pursuing the issue consistently and hoped that it would soon be a reality, adding that the CM, under pressure from AP’s move, is trying to take credit.