Bhubaneswar (BBS): The railway board has sought opinion of all the Odisha MPs on this issue. Earlier, it had sought the opinion of the state government, which submitted its reply to the board.
Odisha Commerce and Transport Minister Ramesh Majhi said: “The railway is getting nearly Rs 14,000 crore as revenue from ECOR and we agree that 80% of the revenue is from Visakhapatnam Division itself. But that doesn’t mean that Odisha is left poor due to bifurcation. Although we are opposed to any such move, we want the centre should consider, in the event of Visakhapatnam division being taken away from the East Coast Railway’s jurisdiction, two or three new railway divisions set up in the state and its headquarters be located in the mineral rich belt of Jajpur-Keonjhar, and the last one either in Rourkela or Jharsuguda. Majhi also strongly stressed that portions of South Eastern Railway should be transferred to ECOR jurisdiction”.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in his letter stated, “We have raised objections to this bifurcation, and I hope the Ministry of Railways will consider our just request to protect the interest of the backward regions of Odisha”. “There are many pockets of Odisha which are still functioning under other railway zones. The railway should initiate steps to bring back all such railway networks under the East Coast Railway,” he said.
Majhi said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had, in July 2014, written a letter to the then Union Minister for Railways opposing any such move. Sources said the Chief Minister stated that the state had a concern about creation of new zone for Andhra by bifurcating Visakhapatnam.
The East Coast Railway was created in 1996-97 out of the South-Eastern Railway Zone. Even after its creation, it took nearly eight years to become fully operational. The Waltair division was brought under the East Coast Railway in 2003, and nearly 30 stations, including those in Koraput and Raygada districts, are now under its jurisdiction.
Out of 1,106km of railway line under this zone, nearly 410km are passing through Rayagada and Koraput districts. Now, three divisions – Sambalpur, Khurda and Waltair – are functioning under the East Coast Railway.
In another development, the Samajwadi Party state unit today sent a letter to railway minister Suresh Prabhu opposing the move.
“Creating a new zone out of the East Coast Railway zone is detrimental to the growth and development of Odisha,” said its state unit chief Rabi Behera.
Sources in the East Coast Railway confirmed that such a move had been initiated at the Union ministry of railways’ level. “The process has been initiated, according to the norms following reorganisation of Andhra Pradesh. But, there is no immediate impact,” said a senior official associated with logistics of the development, adding that there was now a demand for creation of 12 zones and 28 new railway divisions across the country.