Port Ministry in talks with Railways for Indore-Manmad Rail Line to get local produce to the Exports Market

Indore-Manmad Railway Project Struggle Committee sought intervention of High Court to increase funding due to meagre allocation of funds in the Union Budget 2018-19

MUMBAI: Indore-Manmad Rail Project is the maiden one taken up by recently constituted Indian Port Rail Corporation Limited (IPRCL) by Union ministry of shipping on December 22, 2017. The objective of constitution of the PSU Corporation is to enhance port connectivity and evacuation.

The railway board has approved DPR of the project and forwarded it to railway ministry for its formal approval. The project, which had been conceptualised about 100 years ago, was approved in 2016 by then railway minister Suresh Prabhu in the railway budget. Thereafter the project got speed and its final earth survey was completed last year and subsequently the DPR was chalked out.

Indian Port Rail Corporation Ltd (IPRCL), which is executing projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore, will build Indore-Manmad rail corridor for shipments of containers to JNPT, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said earlier. IPRCL is a first-of-its-kind Joint Venture Company (JVC), between the Major Ports under the Ministry of Shipping, and Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL). From Indore and Dewas 47,000 containers go to JNPT (Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust). They go via Ahmedabad and Delhi. It takes eight days for containers to reach JNPT. We (IPRCL) are constructing a railway line between Indore and Manmad which can carry shipments in just 24 hours,” Shipping, Road Trnasport and Highways Minsiter Gadkari told reporters on the sidelines of India PPP Summit organised by FICCI.

He said the detailed project report for about 339 km-long project is ready. The project is aimed at cutting down Indore-Mumbai distance by 200 km and would offer a corridor for despatching export containers from Indore region directly to JNPT.

The minister said that 50 per cent of the about Rs 4,000 crore project would be funded by the Railways while the remaing will be offered by JNPT. “Earlier, Railway Minister has said that 50 per cent of the cost will be contributed by the states and the rest 50 per cent by the Railways. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra had expressed their inability to do so. I said JNPT will provide 50 per cent and the rest 50 per cent will be provided by the Railways,” Gadkari said.

The discussions on the project are on and the land will be provided free of cost by Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments, which will be converted into equity. State governments have also agreed to exempt taxes, he said. Likewise, the minister said that a Rs 1,000 crore rail line is bieng built to carry coal from Talcher to Paradip where Coal India plans to augment its output from the present 60 MT to 300 MT.

“Coal can easily be transported to Kandla and Mumbai from Paradip after the project,” he said. The nation’s largest port JNPT is planning to takeover the idle port assets in its close vicinity which are struggling to takeoff, as it tries to expand into newer cargo categories beyond its stronghold of containers, a top government official said. “This port was thought of as a satellite port to the Mumbai Port, But now time has come that we have to think of satellite port to this port as well,” shipping secretary Gopal Krishna told reporters here today.

He mentioned two projects – Revas and Vijaydurg – which are under consideration apart from three others, that can be taken over from concessionaires who had bagged the project in the past. The Revas port project is promoted by largest corporate Reliance Industries, while the Vijaydurg port in south Konkan, which is located in close proximity to the Rs 1.5-trillion mega refinery, was promoted by a company run by politician-turned media entrepreneur Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

Asserting that JNPT is a financially-strong port, he said the ministry has undertaken feasibility studies for the assets and will be taking a decision accordingly. It can be noted that the JNPT has already announced a slew of projects including the multi-thousand crore terminal at Wadhavan off the Dahanu coast to be built by deep-sea land reclaiming and dry ports in four locations of Maharashtra. JNPT acting chairman Neeraj Bansal mentioned the country’s largest container port is keen on handling liquid and polluting bulk cargo in the future due to requirements of the country or the locality.

The government is cognizant of ports requiring large investments and is committed to do so. There are studies which we are doing in collaboration with some financial institutions. Once the results of the studies will come, then we will assess whether it is a good proposal or not. Everything has to be weighed in terms of its financial and technical viabilities.

He seemed to suggest that the progress on Wadhavan has not been satisfactory as the port is facing resistance from the locals, difficulties in getting green clearances and also facing trouble because it is located in close vicinity of strategic installations.

The secretary, however, said the port is moving ahead with the DPR (detailed project report) for the project.

Krishna said the ministry continues to be in talks with railways for having the Indore-Manmad railway line which can help in getting local produce to the export market.

Bansal said the JNPT is also carrying out works of over Rs 2,000 crore on the dry ports front and will be coming out with some results soon.

Progress on the Sittwe port project in Myanmar is hindered by concerns on connectivity from Indian soil, he said, adding a road will be built from Manipur for the same.

Meagre allocations in the Railway Budget

The reluctant approach of central government in handling railway projects involving great public interest as well as foreign exchequer earning got exposed in the recently presented Union budget, which included railway budget as well.

In a disappointing turn, the budget, presented on February 1, had just Rs 100 crore allocated for 339-km-long Indore-Manmad railway project estimated at Rs 10,000 crore. Strangely, the apathy was despite the fact that the project once completed would reduce the distance between Indore and Mumbai by about 150 km and thus, avail the shortest route to dispatch export consignment from Pithampur to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) Mumbai.

According to pink book of the Railway Budget for 2018-19, Rs 100 crore has been sanctioned for the important project, while as per the detailed project report (DPR) the estimated cost is Rs 10,000, with railway contributing Rs 4983.99crore and the Union shipping ministry the rest.

Criticising the move, experts said that the fund sanctioned in the budget was quite insufficient to complete the ambitious project early, and if the government continues to fund the project in such small amounts after long intervals, the project might take at least next 10 years to complete, with project cost being doubled up.

Chief of Indore-Manmad Railway Project Struggle Committee, Manoj Marathe expressed deep disappointment over the paucity of fund in railway ministry. He said that the sanctioned amount was almost nothing against the projects’ estimated cost of whopping Rs 10,000 crore. He said that “My petition on the issue is still pending before Indore Bench of MP High Court and we shall again approach court demanding it to serve notice to railway ministry to increase allocation of funds for the important project.”