Indo-Nepal Railway project work stops due to poor progress in Land acquisition

Arariya (ARR): The work on laying railways tracks in 18.45 km for an international railway project connecting Bathnaha (BTF) railway station (Arariya, Bihar) to Biratnagar (Nepal) involving about Rs 250 crore has come to a standstill in the state allegedly due to apathetic attitude of Araria district land acquisition office. The time limit for finishing the project has already been extended by one year due to the difference over rate of compensation which were to be paid to the farmers whose land has been acquired for extending rail lines across Indo-Nepal border.

According to railway sources, for laying 5.45 km rail lines from Bathnaha railway station to Integrated Check Post (ICP), Jogbani, Rs. 110 crore was sanctioned for acquiring about 65 acres, construction of one major bridge and for seven culverts Rs 140 crore. The Araria district administration had initially submitted an estimated cost of the land to be acquired for the project from 2.7 to 4.95 km rail lines (Indian side) at Rs. 34.92 crore in 2009 but in 2011 it demanded Rs 65.36 crore.

The Railway Board had deposited Rs 65.36 crore on October 13, 2012, but the process for the acquiring land by the district administration was not set in motion. The Araria district administration has now demanded about Rs 150 crore for acquiring land for the project.

Railway sources alleged that the district land acquisition authorities have fixed the rate of the land at an abnormally high rate of Rs 30,000 to Rs 60,000 per decimal and agricultural land has been shown as residential and commercial land.

he railway ministry has strongly objected to the manner of enhancing the proposed compensation rate of the land to be acquired by the Araria district land acquisition department. The railways ministry has argued that 156 such railway lines projects are going on in the country in which the total cost for laying tracks in 1km comes to Rs 7 to Rs 10 crore only. If the proposal of enhanced rate of compensation fixed by the Araria district administration is approved, it will cost Rs 66 crore per km. The project construction work was started in 2011 and it was to be completed in December 2013.

Project Manager, IRCON, Ashwini Kumar recently told newsmen that construction work of the project on Indian side is stopped due to the land acquisition problem and until the land acquisition process is completed by the Araria district administration, no further construction is possible. It may be mentioned here that the entire cost of laying rail lines between Bathnaha (India) to Biratnagar (Nepal) was funded by the ministry of external affairs, Government of India, to improve its bilateral ties with Nepal.

It is said that on getting information about the projects, the members of the land mafia purchased land from the poor farmers at throwaway prices and then wielded their influences on the local administration to enhance the rate of compensation for acquiring the land for the project.

Several such anomalies in determining the rate of compensation, cases of wrong payments during the land acquisition process for the construction and widening of the National Highways Road (NHRC) passing through Araria district were detected by the then Araria DM.

Araria DM Ajay Kumar Choudhury told that he would take all possible administrative steps for the completion of the project. Track laying work in Nepal side is going on.