Vijayawada (BZA): Although an expert committee report on the issue of creation of new Railway Zone for andhra has not supported the creation of a new zone as the East Coast Railway zone headquartered at Bhubaneswar is unwilling to part with the Visakhapatnam Railway division, which is the top revenue generating division on East Coast Railway. However, being a political decision, it is being pushed forward and currently all political talks are hinting at Visakhapatnam being the preferred choice of headquarters.
With the Union Railway minister stating that the announcement for a separate zone for Andhra Pradesh will be made by this month-end, South Central Railway employees who are unwilling to shift have started petitioning the authorities. With creation of a separate zone, the over 1 lakh sanctioned strength of railway employees will be divided between the two zones and many will have to relocate to either Vijayawada or Visakhapatnam.
The strong political need for a new zone was felt for providing a rail link in the bifurcated states. Also the fact that every zone is informally identifiable with a state, had heightened the need of the new zone. The existing South Central Railway has 6,000 km route length.
According to the expert committee, as Visakhapatnam is the big revenue generating division due to port connectivity and a slew of projects in the offing, the East Coast Railway does not want to give it away. “It will adversely affect the East Coast Railway zone if Visakhapatnam is taken away from it,” as per the committee report.
“The new zone is expected to see port-oriented growth as it will have the benefit of four existing ports and two more in the process.
Meanwhile, the service contract of railway employees mandates that they should shift to wherever they are posted within their appointed zone. But with the zone being split into two, the employees now have to shift as per the requirements of the new zone. Employees say that they should be consulted before deciding on headquarters. Employees are not willing to shift base as most prefer Hyderabad with its social and educational amenities. There is also uncertainty over whether the new zone will be headquartered at Vijayawada or Visakhapatnam.Railway employees, worried over the impending bifurcation of the zone, have started making representations and are writing appeal letters, asking to be given a choice of location, say insiders.
“A number of requests from employees are already coming in to consider them for certain locations, as most are worried that their opinion will not be sought,” said a highly placed source.
“Since the division of the zone is likely to affect half of the workforce in the South Central Zone, each person should be given a choice. It will be better if the administrative office is separated and operated from Hyderabad itself as it’s the administrative staff which is required to run the new zone,” said Subaiah Rao, an administrative officer with SCR. In fact, on several occasions in the past, GM of SCR P. Srivastava has pointed out that the division of the zone is unnecessary and it will be an administrative hurdle.
“As Vijayawada and Guntur are both major junctions and have all supporting infrastructure, they were short-listed for the headquarters of the new zone earlier, but now it looks like Vizag is the choice. The increased connectivity of Vijayawada with other places can improve the development of ports,” said Ratnakar Reddy, a member of the East Godavari District and Cocanada Town Passengers Association.
In a surprise move, many employees from Guntakal, Guntur and Vijayawada Divisions of South Central Railway are not in favour of making Visakhapatnam as the Headquarter of new Railway Zone as it would make the things even more worse than being with Secunderabad. Employees from these divisions observe that Secunderabad is ideal for them to travel for any work pertaining to headquarters, and are more comfortable to it. if Visakhapatnam is made a Headquarter for new railway zone, then it would not only become difficult for many people to commute, but also increase the hassles of travel time, leave alone the untold administrative bottlenecks and functionsing difficulties. They also allege that Visakhapatnam itself struggle with highest freight, port and passenger traffic and and land availability is also difficult there currently. It would make things difficult for many in that case. Hence all the three divisions and various Chamber of Commerce and Industry bodies from various districts urge Railways to declare Vijayawada as the headquarter of new Railway zone so that the headquarters of the newly formed zone will be centrally located to Visakhapatnam, Guntakal and Guntur.
Currently, the South Central Railway has five divisions, Vijayawada, Guntakal, Hyderabad, Secunderabad and Nanded. As per ongoing talks, the new railway zone will either be headquartered at Vijayawada or Visakhapatnam. In the latter case, the entire Visakhapatnam division will have to be shifted to the new Zone from the current East Cost Zone.
“In case of a straight split without clubbing Visakhapatnam division, the promotion prospects of the employees of the new zone will lessen. In case Visakhapatnam is clubbed with the new zone, it will become a good zone in terms of profits. Employees are not in favour of shifting to Visakhapatnam although 70 per cent may favour Vijayawada.
“Given the first choice, none of the employees want to shift out of Hyderabad/ Secunderabad due to the established lifestyle and social infrastructure,” said general secretary of Railway Mazdoor Union Shankar Rao.