Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 24:
With only few hours to go before the Rail Budget 2016, expectations from Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu are sky high in Odisha. After a generous allocation last year, while the political parties are awaiting the budget with bated breath, passengers are desperate for better infrastructure, as we found out.
“Last year, we had offered about 10 times more than what was expected. We would make sufficient allocations this year too. Unfortunately, the State Government is always on a back foot in land acquisition. I have reviewed it personally,” said Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram speaking about the possible budget.
“We had demanded Rs 5576 crore for new lines, double lines and various other projects. We have high expectations from the centre. The State Government has even offered to form SPV and contribute to project cost. But they have to be supportive too,” BJD MP Balabhadra Majhi said.
Notably, the House Committee of the Assembly met Prabhu and had requested to allocate Rs 5576 crore for various projects of the state citing that Railway earns more than Rs 14,000 crore revenue from the state.
Out of the Rs 5576 crore, they had requested for Rs 1050 crore for ongoing projects, Rs 2270 crore for doubling of the lanes, Rs 335 crore for electrification and another Rs 200 crore to form the SPVs among others. Besides, it had stressed on the timely completion of Khurda-Bolangir railway – considered the lifeline of western Odisha and railway connectivity to other districts that do not have a railway footprint yet.
Former Minister of State for Railways and senior Congress leader Kanhu Charan Lenka, however, said that both UPA and NDA governments have neglected Odisha because of poor lobby. “Just meeting the minister once or sending a letter is not enough. The State Government needs to follow up consistently,” he said.
The passengers, as always, asked for better infrastructure, safety measure and facilities.
“Everyone keeps asking for new lines. I am not sure how many new lines Odisha will get, but I see whatever lines are there are not maintained properly. Accidents are common place. Cleanliness is a far cry. Theft and manhandling are so common that security is not even an aspect worth talking about. The coaches are age old and poorly maintained. I believe, the railways seriously need to look into these issues even if it comes at a cost of marginal price hike,” said Purushottam Swain aboard Bhubaneswar- Sambalpur intercity.