NAGPUR: With Indian Railways running into losses to the tune of Rs.26,000 crore, Minister of State for Railways (MoSR) Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Monday although did not give any concrete assurance on fulfilling host of demands, his commitment to set up third line between Nagpur and Wardha was the only silver lining.
“The third line will not be discarded at the cost of Nagpur-Nagbhid broad gauge proposal,” Chowdhury made it clear.
Chowdhury, accompanied by his family, was on a maiden visit to Nagpur at the behest of Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar. He briefly visited Ajni colony and station, besides Motibgah workshop and diesel loco shed and Nagpur station. He also took some time out to visit state EGS minister Nitin Raut’s residence in North Nagpur.
Amid divergent views, Muttemwar wants Ajni station to be developed as world class instead of Nagpur. He is also pushing for an Railyway over Bridge (Rob) over Ajni station on a cost-sharing basis between Centre and the state.
“As the existing Rob is over 125-year-old, a new one estimated to cost Rs36 crore will come through on 50:50 cost sharing basis,” said Muttemwar.
The seven-time Congress MP wanted Nagpur to be upgraded as a zone and Motibagh Diesel Loco Shed and workshop be upgraded to broad gauge in the advent of narrow gauge being phased out.
He also complained that Vidarbha continues to be neglected when it comes to upgrading railway network and infrastructure.
Chowdhury, an MP from West Bengal, did not agree with Muttemwar and recalled Bengal-Nagpur’s 126-year-old association when Bengal-Nagpur Railway (BNR) was formed in 1887.
“Nagpur is state’s third largest city and looking into its genuine demands I agree that small hammers should be replaced with big ones. Diesel locos should go as it is we have to import 80% of the diesel. Of the Rs.23000 crore railways fuel bill, Rs15,000 crore go towards diesel,” said Chowdhury. More focus is now on electrification, he added.
“With more demand and scarce resources, I sometimes feel like a BPL mantri,” Chowdhury said in lighter vein.
“Hence, I cannot fulfil people’s all the expectations, but at the same time I promise that Vidarbha will not be neglected,” he said.
On precarious finances, the minister said there are two railway divisions here. To earn Rs.100, Railways spend Rs.158. “The operating ratio here is 158% which otherwise should be 80%. We will try to bring it down,” he said.
This was the second time Muttemwar invited an MoSR to the city to review development. A similar visit of ex-MoSR KH Muniappa was initiated by him two years ago, but promises remained unfulfilled.
In the evening, while addressing a gathering of traders at Nag Vidarbha Chamber of Commerce (NVCC), Chowdhury reiterated that railways was passing through a tough time as projects worth Rs4.50 lakh crore were already in progress.
“Yet, I will talk to Railway Board officials on all the genuine demands raised here,” he said.
Although the visit seem to generate some electioneering mood ahead of Lok Sabha polls, at the end of the day sans any major announcements it looked as if – “he came, he saw and he went away.”
However, Muttemwar was optimistic. “Chowdhury at least could understand our genuine demands. The Rs36 crore Ajni ROB proposal was agreed in-principle. Besides, upgradation of Motibagh workshop from narrow gauge to broad gauge will also come through,” said Muttemwar.
“With more demand and scarce resources, I sometimes feel like a BPL mantri,” Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, minister of state for railways, said.
Chowdhury at least could understand our genuine demands. The Rs 36 crore Ajni ROB proposal was agreed in-principle
What the MOSR touched upon
Third Line: The Rs.300 crore project will not be shelved, even as there were two different opinions of officials. Unanimous decision will be taken in the project’s favour.
Motibagh Workshop & Diesel shed: Minister said workshop needs to converted into broad gauge with narrow gauge on the way out. Diesel locos should go. Will consider the demand of mass transfers of loco shed staff to Nainpur and elsewhere
Itwari-Kalamna doubling: 75% work has been completed and remaining will be taken up soon. The Rs23-crore project has been stalled for five years due to vote bank politics.
Quarters at Motibagh & Ajni: Muttemwar says all the quarters are 80-year-old and have outlived. These needs to be rebuilt by newly set up Railway Land Development Authority (RLDA). Minister says the demand may be considered
Fare hike: Chowdhury says now Rail Tariff Regulatory Authority (RTRA) will largely delink passenger fares from political process. Populism practised by successive rail ministers has left the railways in the lurch.
Vacant posts: All the posts of GMs will be filled up soon. Besides, there are 1.49 lakh posts vacant across Indian Railways. It is an ongoing process which is continuing.
Security System: Nagpur already has a security system. Petty crimes are taken care of by GRP and RPF.
Train Stoppage: Minister agrees to Wardha MP Datta Meghe’s demand to give stoppage to trains at Chandur Railway on Narkhed-Amravati railway line.
What he ignored
Nagpur-Delhi Duronto: The announcement was made by ex-railway minister Mamata Banerjee on demand by Muttemwar 3 years ago. Chowdhury says Nagpur will not get the train immediately as already some trains have been given.
Nagpur Zone: In view of decentralization policy, Muttemwar demanded Nagpur to be upgraded as a zone due to its strategic location and revenue generation potential. Minister was not so forthcoming on the issue.
Ajni World Class: Muttemwar wants Ajni to be added to the list of 5 stations to be taken to develop as world class. Chowdhury didn’t look keen.
Railway Medical College & Laundry: Both the projects were announced by Mamata Banerjee. Except for survey, nothing has been done. The minister did not touch the issues.
Caption: Minister of state for railways Adhir Ranjan Choudhury and Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar wave after inaugurating the new retiring room at Ajni railway station on Monday.