Naveen meets Suresh Prabhu, seeks Rs 3,200 Cr for Odisha in Rail Budget

New Delhi, Dec 09: Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik met Union Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday and sought an allocation of Rs 3,200 crore for the state in the Rail budget for 2015-16.

During a meeting in afternoon, Patnaik told the Rail minister that the railway network in Odisha remains grossly inadequate with seven backward tribal dominated and Naxal-hit districts totally excluded from the railway map. He appealed to recognise the status of Odisha as one of the least industrialized states as also the significant contribution made by the state to the revenues of Railways and allocate Rs.3200 crore in the Railway Budget for the financial year 2015-16.

Patnaik stated that Odisha contributes over Rs.14,000 crore annually to the revenues of Indian Railways but receives paltry allocation from the Railways every year. The state was allocated only Rs 1400 crore against the requirement of Rs 3160 crore during 2014-15.

He also expressed his concern over the poor network density in Odisha at 15 kms, which has been hampering the pace of industrial development in the state. Highlighting that the Odisha a is home to about one-third of the country's mineral resources, he mentioned that it makes economic sense for the Railways to invest in Odisha both from equity and return standpoints.

Patnaik requested the minister to complete the ongoing railway projects by March 2015 in wake of the famous Nabakalebar festival in Puri where over five million tourists are expected to visit next year.

The ongoing railway works include doubling of Khurda-Delanga-Puri line, third line between Bhubaneswar and Barang, doubling of Cuttack-Barang and Rajathgarh-Barang lines, augmentation of Puri railway station, two additional platforms at Bhubaneswar railway station and construction of a Yatri complex at Puri.

The Chief Minister also informed that five ongoing railway projects, four of which were sanctioned about two decades back, need to be completed in a time-bound manner with provision of adequate funds. These include Khurda-Bolangir rail project (289 km, sanctioned in 1994-95), Haridaspur-Paradeep SPY project (82 km, sanctioned in 1995-96), Angul-Duburi-Sukinda SPV project (90 km, sanctioned in 1997-98), Talcher-Bimlagarh (154 km, sanctioned in 2004-05) and Jaleswar-Digha (40 km, sanctioned in 2010-11).

The state government had offered to allocate land free of cost and share 50% of the construction cost in the Daspalla-Bolangir stretch (112-289 km) of the Khurda-Bolangir rail project in January, 2014. However, there had been no response from the ministry till date, he said.

He urged the Union minister to ensure early completion of this project vital to connect the backward areas of western districts with the coastal districts.

Stating that the state government has proposed to bear 50 percent construction cost along with free land for Jeypore-Nabarangpur line and 25 percent of construction cost for Jeypore-Malkangiri line for creating Railway infrastructure in the tribal dominated and Maoist prone areas of KBK districts, Patnaik requested the Union minister to sanction these projects along with adequate budget provision in the rail budget for 2015-16 fiscal.

The Chief Mminister also urged the Union minister that the railway infrastructure projects declared in the previous budget, including setting up of a wagon factory at Sitalapalli in Ganjam district, wagon maintenance workshop at Kalahandi and skill development centre at Koraput, be implemented at the earliest.

Informing that the state government has committed to bear 50 percent of the cost for setting up a ultra modern railway station at Bhubaneswar, he requested the Union minister to take up the said project on a priority basis.

In his reply, the Union minister assured that all out efforts will be made to complete ongoing projects in Odisha. Ongoing works relating to Nabakalebar-2015 shall be taken up and completed on priority, he added.

Appreciating the concerns raised by the Chief Minister that revenues earned by Railways from Odisha are not ploughed back to the state, the Union minister suggested a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) could be formed for Odisha with equity participation from the Railways and the state government. The entire revenue earned by the SPVs could be ploughed back into the state for other projects which would ensure availability of funds and adequate coverage of Railway Network in the State over the medium to long term, he said.

It was decided that the first meeting in this regard will be held in Delhi between members of the Railway Board and the state Commerce and Transport department where the finer details of the said proposal would be discussed.

The structure and arrangements of the SPVs would then get firmed up for approval of the Chief Minister and the Union Railway minister.

The Union minister also assured that the proposal of the state government would be taken into account while finalizing the Railway Budget for 2015-16.

He also informed that most of the projects, ongoing and those proposed by the state, are profitable in nature and will therefore be accorded highest priority while ensuring adequate budget funding.

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