Karnataka CM urge early Environment Clearance for Hubballi-Ankola Railway line

Meets Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi

BANGALORE: Chief Minister Siddaramaiah called on Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday in New Delhi, urging him to expedite pending railway projects in Karnataka. He also sought the early environment clearance from the centre for the long pending Hubballi-Ankola railway line.

The work on the Hubballi-Ankola railway line, which was first proposed in 1998, has been tardy since the centre has not given environment clearance to the project. A high power committee of the Union Ministry of Environment has recommended environment clearance to the project, Mr. Siddaramaiah said.

With the increase in the number of passengers and movement of trains in Mysuru railway station, the Chief Minister urged Mr. Prabhu to modernise the railway station to international standards, besides exanding the station to ensure that passengers can be provided with modern facilities.

Mr. Siddaramaiah also demanded the centre to expedite work on the high-speed rail network between Mysuru-Bengaluru-Chennai.

Mr. Prabhu, who listened to the demands of the Karnataka government, told the Chief Minister to submit the wish-list after officials of both state and the centre discussed the progress of various railway projects in Karnataka.

Drought relief

Mr. Siddaramaiah also called on Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and demanded higher amount of relief for executing drought relief works in the State. The centre has granted ₹1,527 crore to the state in the last five years, while other states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh had received more than ₹8,000 crore, he told reporters in Delhi.

He also urged Mr. Singh to drop the revised Manual for Drought Management 2016, which will be effective in the ongoing Kharif season. He maintained that the manual will significantly reduce the aid to the drought affected taluks.

On July 24, Mr. Siddaramaiah had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that “stringent parameters/eligibility conditions will make it difficult for the state government to declare taluks with significant crop loss severely drought affected.” He added that the new guidelines “will drastically reduce the central assistance in future. This will increase hardship of the farmers.”

The government has opposed changes in parameters for drought assessment. The new manual for drought management limits centre’s scope to offer financial assistance to states in the eventuality of drought.

Unlike the 2009 manual, which was a mere guideline and not mandatory for the states to follow, the “moderate” drought category has been deleted in the new manual. It means drought-hit areas will now be categorised as “normal” and “severe”. Only in case of “severe” drought, a state would be eligible for central assistance from the National Disaster Relief Fund.