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March 08, 2011

Is Jiribam-Tupul BG dropped from national project?

SILCHAR, March 7: Mamata Banerjee, Railway Minister, has in her budget promised a diesel locomotive centre in Manipur. But, nothing positive has been held out about the action plan tocomplete the much delayed national project, Jiribam-Tupul BG, which was projected for implementation by 2009.Quite surprisingly, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs which cleared 11 national projects with theiradequate and timely funding from non lapsable Northeast region rail development fund has not included Jiribam-Tupul which was declared a national project by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh while laying its foundation stone in 2003 in presence of the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav. The 11 national projects include Lumding-Silchar-Jiribam, Badarpur-Kumarghat, Bogibeel bridge, Rongia-Murkongselek, Dimapur-Zubra, Azara-Byrnihat, Bhairobi-Sairang, Agartala-Sabroom, Sevok-Rangpo and Byrnihat-Shillong which are targeted for completion between 2013-2015. The total estimated cost on these national projects is to the tune of Rs 17,005 crore. No plausible explanationhas been given for the omission of Jiribam-Tupul project from the list. This however does reflect on the planning of the Rail Bhavan. As already pointed out Manipur has on date only 1.5 km of railhead. The fate of Jiribam-Tupul seems to be similar tothat of Silchar-Lumding BG which has been caught in the vortex of politician-bureaucrat-contractor syndicate which has been active to delay and even scuttle this project for the sake of transport lobby. The then Prime Minister Devegowda who laid the foundation of this national projectin 1996 in the presence of then Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan committed to say its completion by 2002. It is to be recalled that Manipur did not favour extension of the rail link from Jiribam as it would necessitate movement of trains over the congested MG Hills section of Silchar-Lumding route. Manipur favoured rail link to Imphal through Diphu on the Lumding-Tinsukia BG route up to Kerong surveyed by RITES in 1997 and approved in 1998. Lalu Prasad Yadav had then said that on the advice of Manipur Government Diphu-Kerong plan was dropped. Railway Ministry was therefore back to Jiribam-Tupul, 20 km short of Imphal though the survey described it as "highly critical and costly". While the unigauge conversion of Silchar-Lumding is yet to take days, there is no satisfactory work on Jiribam-Tupul route. The talk of diesel locomotive centre against this backdrop looks only an exercise to keep the people of Manipur in good humour. (sentinelassam)