Updated: March 22, 2018 1:22:08 am
Rail connectivity in the hill state of Nagaland seems to be edging towards reality, with work on the Dhansiri-Shukhovi-Zubza railway project underway. Former Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu had laid the foundation stone of the Dhansiri (Dimapur)-Zubza broad gauge line at the Dimapur railway station in August 2016.
The first phase of the project had begun in late 2015 on the Rangapahar to Sukhovi section but was stalled over land acquisition. The work in progress, below National Highway 29, is where the Zubza railway station will be constructed. Zubza is 15 km from the state capital Kohima. Gujarat-based Royal Infra Engineering Pvt Ltd is overseeing the construction work.
Connectivity has been one of the major reasons why the northeast has remained isolated from what is called “mainland India”. Moreover, bad roads, rail and air connectivity in the region have resulted in inequitable development. Nagaland, whose gateway is the thriving cosmopolitan commercial town of Dimapur, is a glaring example.
Dimapur is the only district with a railway station and an airport in the state. The Dimapur railway station was thrown open to the public in 1903 when the metre gauge railway track laid by Assam Bengal Railway from Chittagong to Lumding was extended to Tinsukia (Upper Assam), passing through Dimapur.
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Tuli, in Mokokchung district bordering Assam, has rail connectivity, but it was shut down when the Tuli Pulp and Paper Mill became defunct. With road being the only travel option, the journey to other parts in Nagaland becomes a cumbersome task with pathetic road conditions, especially during the monsoons. A distance of 75 km from the plains of Dimapur to the hilly state capital Kohima takes around 2 hours, but every year landslides either cut off connectivity or increases travel time during monsoons. Development in Dimapur, or even Kohima, and the other parts of the state has hence been lopsided.
The project was first approved by the Congress-led UPA government in 2006, but according to reports, it had logged only 8 per cent progress. In 2017, the Prime Minister’s Office took over monitoring of the project and set the year 2020 as the deadline for completion of the long-pending rail link.
Being a tribal state, there is a unique land holding system where individuals, families and clans are sole owners of the land and it has to be acquired from them every time any project is to be implemented. A special provision under Article 371(A) with regard to all land-related issues within the state, gives the constitutional right to the Nagas that overrides any act on land.
The 88-kilometre long Dhansiri-Zubza-Kohima new line project has the status of a National Project and is part of Indian Railways’ ambitious plan to connect capitals of all north-eastern states by broad gauge rail link.
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