Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 14:
The Union Parliamentary Affairs ministry:’s letter stating that officers of the railways are not to be called to appear before any committee of the state has rattled not only the members of the Odisha Assembly House committee on Railways but the state bureaucracy as well.
The content of the letter was revealed after the railway officers did not turn up at a meeting of the House Committee on railways chaired by the Speaker of the Odisha Assembly on Wednesday.
The letter was sent to the secretary Transport, who in turn gave it to the secretary of the Odisha Assembly. Reliable sources said when the House committee members wanted to know why the railway officers were not present in the meeting, they were informed about the Parliament Ministry’s letter dated 2 June.
It is learnt that the views of the Attorney General had been obtained before the letter was sent to the state government.
A member of the House Committee reportedly raised questions and requested that the AG’s views be placed before the committee. He is also understood to have stated that there are instances of the privilege committee summoning judges, hence railway officers can also be called to such meetings.
In the past the railway officers used to attend the meetings of the Assembly House Committee and provide necessary information. The new NDA government has stopped the practice by issuing the contentious letter, said a member.
While this unprecedented Central decision agitated the House committee members, they were equally baffled by the strange insouciance on the part of the state government with regard to railway projects in Odisha over which the Ruling BJD has been crying hoarse for over a decade.
Over the years, the House committee has been raising the issue of neglect by railways in certain specific projects including that of the Khurda Road-Bolangir line. There have been many instances when the Committee has had to visit Delhi to present memoranda to the PM, Railway Minister.
However, the House committee members on Wednesday were in for shock when they discovered that the forest clearance for a stretch of over 25 kms of the Khurda Road-Bolangir line has not been granted as yet. What was the Committee doing for over a decade without raising this basic issue is what the members found difficult to answer.
Similarly, the state government, which had boasted of providing land and even footing fifty per cent of the project cost, has not even earmarked any specific land for the purpose. It was also found that the stretch between Nayagarh-Bolangir does not have even the financial sanction.