The Indian Railways is set to kick off the Rajdhani Express between Arunachal Pradesh and New Delhi by November. To make travel more passenger-friendly, Arunachal has agreed to relax the rigid norm of inner-line permit, which is otherwise mandatory for “outsiders” entering the state.
After a series of meetings at the Prime Minister’s Office between Railways and state officials, as well as correspondence between the state’s Chief Secretary and the Railway Board recently, it was decided that passengers who have made a reservation will not require the permit.
The Railways had reasoned that details of the identity of a passenger with a reserved ticket are entered into the railway system at the time of booking, and are verified when they board.
“The state has agreed that as long as a passenger holds a reserved ticket, inner-line permit is not required,” Devi Prasad Pande, Member-Traffic, Railway Board, told The Indian Express. The Rajdhani Express to Naharlagun, 15 km from the state capital of Arunachal Pradesh, will run twice a week to and from Delhi. Another AC-only express train linking Guwahati to the Capital is also on the cards. In both categories of trains, unreserved tickets are not issued.
The problem of running trains with general class coaches, in which passengers can travel with unreserved tickets, is still being discussed.
The two sides have discussed the possibility of creating a ‘holding area’, where credentials of passengers with unreserved tickets can be verified and state officials can issue inner-line permits to them .
Ever since the 33-km railway line between Harmuti in Assam and Naharlagun — the last stage in the Rajdhani project which will connect Arunachal with the rest of the country — neared completion earlier this year, local groups have stepped up protests against the prospect of outsiders inundating the state.
“How does a reserved ticket meet the requirements of the inner-line permit? The permit system was introduced as per a law which still exists to protect locals from exploitation. What is the problem in procuring a permit before boarding the train? I don’t think the new arrangement will be acceptable,” said Ninong Ering, Congress MP from Arunachal East Lok Sabha constituency.
Ering was referring to The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 and the Chin Hill Regulations, 1896, which are meant to provide special protection and safeguard the “peaceful existence of the indigenous tribal people” in Arunachal.