BG project: Railways groping in dark

SILCHAR, Aug 2: People of Barak Valley now seems to be hoping against hope for the Silchar-Lumding BG project to see the light of the day. After 12 years of toying with the idea of taking the BG track by diverting it from Sukritipur station to Lanka in order to avoid the critical hill section of North Cachar, now Dima Hasao, and then to Jogighopa all the way through Meghalaya, the Railway Ministry decided to convert the existing MG route into BG with necessary modifications.
Ultimately, in 1996 the foundation stone was laid by the then Prime Minister Deve Gowda in the presence of his Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Union Minister Sontosh Mohan Dev for the BG track along MG route after engineering-cum-traffic survey. The wide bodied BG rolling stock has necessitated diverting the track from Detekcherra across Jatinga river in order to avoid the critical Harangajao-Jatinga high gradient stretch.
First, it was targeted to be completed by 2002. In 2004, it was declared a national project by the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh while laying the foundation stone of Jiribam-Tulup BG track to link Silchar with Imphal. Sontosh Mohan Dev, former Union Minister, went on record to say that he would come from Delhi by BG train to begin his poll campaign in his home constituency for the 2009 Parliamentary elections.
Mamata Banerjee, after her induction as Railway Minister, when approached by a delegation of the newly floated Trinamul Congress unit in Cachar, extended the target date of completion by 2012. Perhaps toeing the line of the Railway Minister, General Minister of NF Railway Shiv Kumar while addressing a meeting of high officials of Lumding division at Lumding too spoke of completing the Silchar-Lumding BG project within the date declared by Mamata Banerjee.
Belying the high hopes of people raised by such assurances, Gautam Roy, Minister of Excise and Border Area Development, dismissed them as mere ‘speculations’ and asserted that from all reckoning the delayed BG link would be more delayed and there was no possibility of its completion before 2020. The minister made the statement on the basis of the feedback from his own sources on the ground. Competent sources agree with the minister.
So long, it was insurgency which was blamed for the slow progress. Shiv Kumar too admitted it and added to say with normalcy returning to the hills, work on the project was progressing well and hoped travelling on BG track would be a reality in another two years. The problem as he stated was with the construction of the longest tunnel number 10, conveniently glossing over certain other factors.
There is no word from him on the major bridge over Jatinga for diverting the BG track from Detekcherra. What about other tunnels caught in scams exposed by the audit reports and the one that collapsed as highlighted by this newspaper earlier. Shiv Kumar knows if the gullible people of Barak Valley could be fed with promises and kept in good humour for long 27 years, he could also reactivate their hope for another two years. The NF Railway website shows progress so far made on the 293.7 km long Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam unigauge conversion up to 20 per cent whom and what to believe? (SENTINELASSAM)

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