SHILLONG: Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma on Friday sought to break the widespread “myth of influx” surrounding the introduction of railways in the state and said there was a need to change the perception. Scripting a new chapter in the history of Meghalaya, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma recently laid the foundation of the first railway station at Mendipathar in Garo hills. Emphasizing that there was a need to introduce a cheaper transportation mode in the land locked state to make essential commodities affordable, the chief minister announced in the assembly that the first railway station at Mendipathar in South Garo Hills would be a reality “very soon”.
Replying to the budget discussion, the chief minister, who holds the finance portfolio, said there has been a “lot of support” from the local people, NGOs and social organizations regarding the introduction of railways in the Garo Hills. “A similar enthusiasm needs to be created in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills regarding railways, so that the long pending project of the central government can be implemented,” he said.
After years of hard work and persuasion to the resisting forces, the state is finally on the railway map of India.
Mendipathar railway station in Garo hills will now be connected with Dudhnoi in Assam through a broad gauge line that will cover a distance of 19.5 kilometers.
The first railway line of Meghalaya, being constructed at an estimated cost of Rs. 144 crore, is expected to be functional by March 2013.
The railway line will facilitate in improving connectivity between Assam and Meghalaya, thereby opening a lot of business opportunities for the people of both the states.
It will save cargo costs, travel costs, and reduce the travel time from Assam to Garo hills.
Citing the example of Switzerland, Mukul said the introduction of railways would give a boost to tourism and expressed optimism that rail network would be extended to Byrnihat and capital Shillong.
Seeking to allay the fear of a possible influx and immigration with the introduction of railways, he pointed out that was a directorate of infiltration was already in place to deal with the issue.
The chief minister also spelt out his government’s commitment to expand the Umroi and Baljek airports in a time-bound manner and also address infrastructural problems in road connectivity of the state.
He said a new 361-km National Highway-127 has been notified and it will connect Asanang, Williamnagar, Phulbari, Tura and Nongstoin, which has been approved and Rs 479 crore has been earmarked for the road sector. Stressing on reviving the dysfunctional river routes to neighbouring Bangladesh which are approved water ways for trade, Mukul said, “We want Meghalaya as a trade corridor for the Northeast to Bangladesh.”
Speaking on the occasion, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said, “This is just a beginning. We have achieved a milestone in bringing Meghalaya to the map of railways and getting it connected to the rest of the country.”
On the anvil is another project connecting Tetelia in Assam with Byrnihat in Meghalaya and another linking Byrnihat with New Shillong.
The new rail link will promote tourism in the region and generate revenues for the state.
The rail network in the northeast region is increasing as government has initiated many railway projects. Large number of trains on a daily basis connect the Northeast region to different parts of country.
Some of its flagship projects are Bogibeel Rail project connecting Assam and Arunachal, Imphal-Jiribam Rail link connecting Jiribam with Imphal, Dimapur Express connecting Dimapur with Guwahati and Agartala-Akhaura Rail link connecting Tripura directly with Chittagong in Bangladesh.
“The state will witness multidimensional growth and a socio-economic transformation once railway line links it with other parts of the country,” Roy added.
With the increasing railway connections, people from all over the country will be able to visit northeast and explore its beauty.
It will not only give a huge fillip to the tourism industry but will also speed up the industrialization process of the region.