Land acquisition issues with Bengal government hampering rail line to Gangtok
While the Modi government is pushing ahead with its plan of connecting all the state capitals of the northeastern region by 2020, the project of connecting Sikkim's capital Gangtok is hanging fire due to land acquisition issues with the West Bengal government.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told the Lok Sabha in reply to a question that the capitals of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura have been already been connected by broad gauge rail network.
Work on new broad gauge lines has been taken up to connect the other state capitals -- Meghalaya (Shillong), Manipur (Imphal), Nagaland (Kohima), Mizoram (Aizawl) and Sikkim (Gangtok).
In the case of Sikkim, new line work has been sanctioned up to Rangpo in the first phase.
In some of the states, the progress of laying the rail lines was affected mainly due to delay in land acquisition and law and order issues, the minister said. The work also involved construction of a large number of tunnels and major bridges, including very tall bridges, in the mountainous terrain.
With regard to Sikkim, the project of laying a broad gauge line from Sivok to Rangpo (44.39 kms) was sanctioned in 2008-09. However, the project has been in limbo for a long time as the West Bengal government has not given "encumbrance-free land of 77.78 hectares of forest land after cutting of trees" to the Railways.
The issue is being "consistently chased" with the Mamata Banerjee government, and the target date for completion of the project is three years after getting physical possession of the land, the minister said.
The Modi government has laid great emphasis in the past five years towards quick execution of infrastructure and safety projects and funding for the infra projects has increased considerably.
The average annual expenditure in new line/gauge conversion/doubling infrastructure projects during 2014-19 was Rs 25,894 crore per year as against Rs 11,527 crore during 2009-14 -- a rise of 125 per cent.
The government also majorly hiked the funding for infra projects for the northeastern states -- from Rs 2,121 crore per year during 2009-14 to Rs 5,531 crore during 2014-19 -- an increase of 161 per cent. IANS