Pasighat-Murkongselek railway project in jeopardy

ITANAGAR: The future of the much-hyped Pasighat-Murkongselek railway project is in jeopardy with Indian Railways (IR) authorities raising concern over the land compensation rate.

The North Eastern Frontier Railway (NFR) has announced that until the land rate issue is settled by the Arunachal Pradesh government, they will stall the land acquisition process and no compensation will be provided from their side.

The NFR also alleged that the East Siang district administration distributed compensation for the first phase, from 2.6 km to 9.2 km, despite objection raised by the railways authorities.

“The DC made disbursement of land compensation for Phase-I without the consent of the Railways. The land rate fixed for both Phase-I and -II is unreasonably high. The state government was apprised of the matter by the Railways to reduce land rates to a reasonable level,” the NFR remarked in a report.

It added that it is consulting with the state government to examine alternative alignments where land rates are lower.

The land rate fixed by the Arunachal government is Rs 891 per square metre, which the NFR considers to be high. The land compensation for the first phase is reportedly Rs 73 crore.

On its part, the East Siang district administration dismissed the NFR’s allegation and claimed that members of the NFR were part of the land fixation board.

“The compensation rate was fixed as per the Jonai (Assam) rate. In the land compensation board there was a member from the Railways, too. If they had issues with the high rate, they should have raised it when the meetings were being held to fix the final rate.

The compensation rate was approved by the state government. Also, public hearings were held and land was acquired after following all rules,” said East Siang District Land & Revenue Settlement Officer O Nangkar.

He added: “The compensation rate for the Ruksin-Pasighat railway line and land for the Indian Army at Rayang were approved at the same time. The rate for the Indian Army was less in comparison to the Railways, and since then the NFR authorities have made an issue out of it. But there cannot be a comparison between the two.”

Speaking to this daily, East Siang Deputy Commissioner Tamiyo Tatak said he had no role in the fixing of the land rate and he only oversaw the distribution of compensation to the land owners as the head of the administration.

Earlier this year, MoS for Railways Rajen Gohain had cited high compensation rate for the delay in execution of the Pasighat-Mukongselek railway project.

Member of Parliament from eastern Arunachal, Ninong Ering, while attending an NFR meeting in Tinsukia (Assam) on Wednesday raised concern over the delay in the land acquisition process for this project, and urged the union railway ministry to resolve the issue at the earliest.

Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu had laid the foundation stone for the construction of the 26-km-long new broad gauge railway line from Murkongselek in Assam to Pasighat in May 2017. The total length of the project is 26 kms, and the first 2.6 kms fall in Assam, while the remaining line is in Arunachal Pradesh.

The total sanctioned cost of the project is Rs 414 crore, and the land acquisition process in the state started in 2014. The land acquisition estimate for the Assam side is yet to be received by the IR.

After Hollongi airport and the Trans-Arunachal Highway road projects, the Pasighat-Murkongselek railway project is also caught in the compensation issue.