GUWAHATI: A most awaited moment for the cornered tiny Himalayan state Sikkim was graced today after assurance from GTA Chairman Binay Tamang last month to bring good coordination between Hill and Sikkim. The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has finally issued a no-objection certificate (NOC) to Sikkim’s first railway line, the Sevoke- Rangpo railway project. In a press statement, Chairman of the GTA Board of Administrators, Binoy Tamang said they have fulfilled their promise and have given the NOC for the rail line.
“GTA principal secretary Subrata Biswas has written to the Darjeeling District Magistrate, Joyoshi Das Gupta, regarding this matter on Tuesday,” Mr Tamang said.
It may be mentioned here that GTA officials had met several railway officials in Darjeeling on 4 April and had come to a mutual understanding regarding the project, with the Railways agreeing to the various demands put forward by the GTA.
“The NOC was given as per the recent meeting with railway officials, as our demands were met and also for the benefit of the northeast region, along with Darjeeling and Sikkim. Railway officials had in the meeting maintained that the rail lines will reach Rangpo in Sikkim by 2022,” the release said.
“As soon as the rail lines start functioning in the GTA area, rail services for different places like Delhi and Guwahati and other places can be started from here,” Mr Tamang said.
The release further stated that the Railways has agreed to their demands like four railway stations in the GTA area, while no explosives will be used for digging tunnels for the project, 80 percent of which will be underground.
Mr Tamang further said that the total distance between Sevoke and Rangpo will be 44.98 km, and that 90 percent of the train tracks will be laid in the GTA area, which is about 41.54 km. Sikkim side will have a mere 3.44 km of the tracks.
The press release said that there will be 14 tunnels along the route that will be 38.64 km in total. “No forest village will be affected by the construction of the project, and the Railways department has given this to us in writing,” said the press release.
“Keeping in mind national interest and security concerns, the GTA has decided to grant a no-objection certificate to the railways within this week. Our demand for three railway stations on our side has not only been accepted but the railways have also decided to add one more station. All our concerns, like launching social welfare schemes for the population, along the route has also been agreed,” GTA chairman Binay Tamang said after the meeting on Wednesday.
Of the 44.98km link, 41.45km will fall within the GTA area and 3.51km in Sikkim. The four railway stations in GTA area will be set up at Sevok, Riyang, Teesta and Malli. “While the three stations will be overground, the station at Teesta will be underground,” said Tamang. Another station will come up at Rangpo in Sikkim.
This would be the first underground railway station in north Bengal. “Of the 44.98km, 38.64km, or 86 per cent of the route, will pass through 14 tunnels, the longest of which will be 5.13km,” said A. Prakash, chief administrative officer, Northeast Frontier Railway. The tunnels will be dug at a depth of 1000 metres in certain places.
Prakash said New Austrian Tunnelling (NATM) technology would be used. “NATM technology has been successfully used in Kashmir, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya among others,” said Prakash. More than 37 tunnels have been dug using this technology in Manipur.
Tamang said that villagers would not have to be resettled as the railway link was mostly underground.
“The villagers are raising the issue of granting land rights but this is not related with the project. Forest villagers in Jalpaiguri have been granted land rights. Things are now getting normal in the hills and we will take up the issue of granting forest rights to the villagers with the state government soon,” said Tamang.
Work on the project is likely to start within six months and is scheduled to be completed within a period of four years.
In 2009, the project cost was estimated at Rs 1339.48 crore but the figure had escalated to Rs 4084.64 crore six years later in 2015.
Railway officials said that a survey to extend the rail link between Rangpo and Gangtok has been completed.