IN A move that will put Nabarangpur on the country’s rail map, the Odisha government on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Railways to share the cost of construction of two railway lines in the state. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and railways minister
Suresh Prabhu were present at the signing of the MoU.
The project includes a 38-km track from Jeypore in Koraput district to Nabarangpur block in Nabarangpur district in southern Odisha. Going by several development indicators, Nabarangpur is arguably one of the poorest districts in the country, and is the focus of an ongoing assignment by The Indian Express — titled District Zero — to track poverty and transformation.
The Odisha government has offered to foot the entire land cost for the 38-km line, and share 50 per cent of the construction cost. The state government and the railways ministry will also share 25 per cent of the total cost of a 130-km line between Jeypore and Malkangiri.
Patnaik said the two projects held a “special significance” for him, and will be completed approximately in the next five years. The chief minister said that this will be the first time that both tribal districts will get rail connectivity.
Patnaik claimed that Odisha’s railway density was “significantly” lower than the national average, and that even though his state “contributes about ten per cent of the total railway revenue,” the network in Odisha was not as good compared to many other states. He “urged” the ministry to complete the project within the timeline agreed upon in the MoU.
Railways minister Prabhu said that in terms of railways, Odisha has been neglected earlier but his government will make sure that the state remains a top priority for the next three years. Prabhu said that Odisha lacked infrastructure, like a strong rail network, which has prevented the state from developing.
He announced a number of other projects that were being considered by his ministry in consultation with the state government.
Nabarangpur MP Balabhadra Majhi told The Indian Express that funds for the project have been assured. He said that though the scheduled time for the project is five years, it should practically take about seven to eight years to complete it.
Majhi said the rail line will connect Nabarangpur to the national network. “Like there cannot be any development without transportation, similarly, no area can become industrialised without a railway network,” he said. Nabarangpur was “totally untouched” by a railway line and with this line, industrialisation in the area will take off, he said. “This is an important thing,” said Majhi.