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Concern of Bihar Needing Expression in Upcoming Railway Budget


Prateek K Anand


(BiharTimes) It’s budget time once again. Bihar still requires a lot of helping hand from federal government of which railway infrastructure is a key element. A lot of Bihar centric railway projects are stymied for lack of enough budgetary support. Situation has worsened with loss of will on the part of railway board and  the Ministry of Railways. Projects which could have ushered in dramatic changes in states economic landscape, like the high value locomotive projects, have not seen any movement over the last financial year.

 Importance of these projects can not be over emphasized in view of prevalent scarce situation of state’s revenue resources and (non)existing industrial landscape. However state’s needs go much beyond these two aforesaid locomotive projects.

For example, there is an emergent need to link up the Kosi region to state capital through the shortest route. This calls for a rail route through Hajipur,  Samstipur, Kusheswarsthan to Saharsa.  Similarly, a rail route from Virpur, Madhepura, Bihupur, Bhagalpur will go a long way in developing the Kosi region.  Additionaly, a rail bridge of immense passenger traffic potential linking cultural twin cities of Arah & Chapra has been long overdue now. Another bridge over Gandak river, linking Thawe & Motihari will go a long way towards increasing the economic exploitation of even the existing rail routes in the region.
A major strategic project of great national importance, which could be taken up as a national project, would be a quality rail network linking Kathmandu to Paradeep Port. So far, India’s strategic thinking and negotiation skill has been lackluster as aptly exemplified in loss of Myanmar Gas to China. The bankruptcy of strategic thinking capability in the Indian establishment is also obvious in the lack of a well crafted plan aimed at co-opting Nepal as an equal partner in India’s economic progress.  It would be too late by the time Indian establishment wakes up to Nepal being subsumed by rising superpower China. Anyway, it is least of the worry of the present day leadership as such things hardly do matter in electoral considerations. Also, with immense media power at hand, state actors can give any colour they like to action, or lack of it, on these strategic fronts where people are not directly affected, as has been the case with the INDO-US nuclear deal.
Of late, there has been a growing concern about even those projects which were announced in the earlier budgets. Railway lines announced in budget 2008 has to go without any budgetary allocation in the last year’s budget.  There have been some smaller workshop projects as well, like the one for high capacity freight bogies at Dalmianagar. Earlier last year bids were invited for the same along with a similar project at Majerhat (WB). However, for the reasons better known to Railway Board, these two bids were postponed indefinitely. One source ascribed the reason for postponement to lack of land at Majerhat and the need for disposing off the scraps at Dalmianagar.  Anyway, reason assigned in case of Dalmiyanagar looks quite unconvincing as disposing of scrap can not be such a bottleneck as to mar the very bidding process. Already, a good amount of time has expired since it was put on hold.  Scrap disposal could have happened many times over in this period.
It can be only hoped that this budget will be benign to the various important projects in Bihar. It is difficult to comprehend why preferential treatment to Bihar should be resented by anyone. As such Bihar has been marginalized in the federal scheme of things through better part of last sixty years since independence. In the interim period, Bihar’s resources had been used elsewhere in the country in the task of nation building, be it through freight equalization or through skewed CD ratio. Lest there be any doubt, going by all available evidences, Bihar would have done much better than it is doing today had it been a sovereign entity with complete control over its own resources. Now it’s time that rest of India acknowledges these facts and be ready to payback to Bihar.





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