New Mangalore Railway Division – a Consensus in the Pipeline

Mangalore:  If Kerala gets zonal tag, Port City demand will get boost without hurdles from Karnataka.  As the pressure for a separate railway division for Mangalore has been gaining momentum despite the strong protest from Kerala, a consensus between the two states is slowly being evolved behind the curtains. Railway sources in Palakkad railways and Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) confided that if a separate zone for Kerala is allowed, which has been a long pending demand, Mangalore’s division demand will get a boost without any objection from the neighbouring state.

A separate division with Mangalore as headquarters is a long pending demand raised by different organisations and people of the Port City. The Coastal city is literally sandwiched between Palakkad (Southern Railway), Mysore (South Western Railway) and Konkan Railway Corporation. While Konkan railway starts from Thokur, Mysore division has it’s border after Mangalore Junction station. Being the tail of Palakkad division, Mangalore has not been getting it’s due since long. At the same time, Palakkad division’s survival itself is from the freight charges through MRPL and NMPT. In this financial year (2012 -13), the loading from Panambur area alone was 6.495 MT, which contributed for 91.2 per cent of overall loading of the division. Nonetheless Mangalore is the supporting pillar of the division, however, it is by and large neglected in terms of development.

Railway officials say that the major stumbling block for Mangalore division is not Kerala’s objection, but the demand is not strongly being pushed by Karnataka itself. “The division demand is heard in Mangalore only. When it reaches New Delhi, the name of Gulbarga is being heard now more than Mangalore,” told an official.

Southern, South Western or Konkan?

Though the moves for carving out of Mangalore division is going on, sources said that the authorities concerned are yet to decide on where should Mangalore division be included. If KRCL is the option, then problems are plenty. KRCL is not a part of Indian Railway but a separate Railway entity started in 1998. It was running at a loss of more than Rs 10,000 crore and the Central Government is now not in a position to incur the loss by merging the KRCL in Indian Railways.

Kerala’s demand

Kerala is the only Indian state having a major place in rail map of India without a zone headquartered in its territory. A separate zone means the state’s projects and new train services will come directly from the Centre and not via Southern Railway. For a zone, three divisions under it is mandatory. If Mangalore division is allowed, then including that, Kerala can fulfill it’s zonal ambition with other two divisions, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram. Thus the state is willing to form Mangalore division provided it’s zonal demand should be allowed with new division coming under it.

But this unofficial idea among top railway officers and politicians from Kerala is yet to reach Union Railway Minister’s office. Kerala is also skeptical about how Karnataka will react to this proposal as Karnataka is for a division which comes exclusively under a zone which is within it’s borders.

Palakkad’s ill-fate

When Salem division was carved out of Palakkad in October 2007, the Kerala division lost 623 kilometre of it’s area in Tamil Nadu including Coimbatore and a sizable part of the revenue. At that time, Kerala has been promised with a railway zone and a rail coach manufacturing factory in Palakkad as a compensatory measure. But both the projects are still in paper only. If Mangalore also goes from Palakkad, then it’s better to close down the division, told a railway official to DH.

The Rs 550 crore coach factory at Kanjikode in Palakkad was annouced in 2008-09 rail budget presented by the then Union Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav. Other than handing over 92.04 hectares of land to Railway, nothing has progressed in Kanjikode. At the same time, the Raebareli Coach factory which was announced along with Kanjikode factory has commenced operation.