NEW DELHI: In an indication of the extent to which railway projects across the country are bogged down in delays, an internal note of the Railway Board circulated last week shows that a sum of ₹8,000 crore transferred by Indian Railways to various state governments for land acquisition since 1997-98 is yet to translate into ownership on the ground.
Funds for land acquisitions are unnecessarily locked due to a large number of court cases, the note stated.
For instance, in case of Southern Railway, at least Rs 200 crore has been released to the Tamil Nadu government in the last few years for this purpose without the land being transferred to the Railways. This includes the much delayed last stretch of the Velachery-St Thomas Mount MRTS section, which is pending since 2008.
The note is based on the minutes of a meeting of FA&CAO’s of all Zonal Railways and the Financial Commissioner (FC) of the Railway Board on June 28. “The FC has directed all the financial heads not to release money to state governments towards acquisition of land until the land is given to the railways,” a senior railway officer said.
Other projects in Tamil Nadu stuck due to land acquisition include the fourth line between Chennai Beach and Attipattu, Madurai-Arupukkotai and Tindivanam-Nagari line. “Using railway funds, the state government has set up a land cell and even constructed offices. But nothing is moving on the ground,” said a Southern Railway official.
Apart from capacity addition projects, crucial safety works like laying of rail underbridges and rail overbridges are also pending due to land issues. It was earlier reported how 42 such projects in TN, including 22 in Chennai, are stuck since 2011.
The Railway Board chairman has already written to chief secretaries of all states and cautioned that projects would be scrapped if land was not expeditiously acquired. “Land acquisition delays increase the cost of projects and affect their viability. General managers have been empowered by the chairman to review non-remunerative projects,” a senior official said.
Southern Railway general manager RK Kulshrestha has also met chief secretary Girija Vaidyanathan and discussed these issues in detail.