Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assertion from the ramparts of Delhi’s Red Fort that a new history of connectivity is being written in India’s northeast is being borne out to a large extent by a slew of railway projects which are being undertaken in the region.
During his speech, Modi announced that work to connect state capitals in the region with railway lines will be completed soon.
"Today, a new history of connectivity is being written in the North East. The work of connecting all the state capitals of the North-East with rail service is going to be completed very soon," he said.
"Rail services will be connecting every capital of the Northeast very soon. Under the Act East Policy, Northeastern states are being connected to Bangladesh, Myanmar, and South East Asia," he added.
Development of rail infrastructure in the eight states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, and Sikkim has been given priority, a spokesperson of the Northeastern Frontier Railway (NF Railway) said. However, problems in implementation ranging from land acquisition to opposition by locals continue to plague some of the projects.
NFR aims to complete major sections of 11 out of 19 ongoing projects in eight states of the region by 2022-23.
However, the remaining work will take more time with inevitable cost and time over-runs. The 19 railway projects, including 13 new lines and 6 doublings of tracks, covering 2,008 km in length are being implemented at an estimated cost of Rs 75,579 crore.
Besides these projects, the NFR is also building two international railway projects with help from IRCON which include the long-awaited 12.03-km long new broad gauge railway line from Agartala, in Tripura to Bangladesh Akhaura and a18.6-km railway line from Jogbani in Bihar to Biratnagar in Nepal.
The Rs 980 crore Agartala-Akhuara rail line is expected to be completed by December, officials said. While work on the Indian portion is complete, work on the Bangladesh portion which was delayed due to Covid restrictions is likely to be completed by December.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma here said that the Northeast is ''now on a new growth trajectory''.
Out of the eight states, some form of rail network connectivity exists in seven while Sikkim is being connected with the 44-km Sivok-Rangpo project slated to be completed by March 2023.
Among the new lines, part of the 110.62 km Jiribam-Imphal project in Manipur will be completed soon. The 29 km track between Khongsang and Tupul and the 26.58 Tupul to Imphal is scheduled to be completed by November 2022 and December 2023 respectively.
The 26-km new line between Sukhovi to Pherima of the 82.50 km Dimapur-Kohima project in Nagaland is scheduled for completion by March 2023.
The original timeline for the 51.38 km Bairabi-Sairang project in Mizoram was March 2023, but it has now been pushed back by a year due to unavoidable reasons.
In Meghalaya, both the projects - 21.50 km Tetelia-Byrnihat and 108.40 km Byrnihat-Shillong, have been stalled due to law and order issues with some organizations opposing railway lines in the state fearing this will lead to an uncontrolled influx of outsiders.
According to Indian Railways' annual report, local people have not allowed the final location survey in a five-km stretch. Similarly, land acquisition for fixing centerline pillars in alignment has also been stalled.
In the Tetelia-Byrnihat project, the 10-km stretch of the Tetelia-Kamalajari section in Assam has been completed and commissioned. In Meghalaya, however, work has been stopped since 2017 due to law and order issues.
The target date for completing the 26.15 km new line from Murkongselek to Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh has also not been fixed, as land acquisition has been held up due to demands for higher compensation in Arunachal Pradesh.
Some 241 km, out of the 289 km long New Maynaguri-Jogighopa New Line with Gauge Conversion of New Mal-Maynaguri Road and New Changrabandha-Changrabandha has already been commissioned while work has been taken up in the balance portion.
The Dimapur-Tizit, Salona-Khumtai, Sibsagar-Jorhat, and Tezpur-Silghat were also included in the budget of 2017-18 but are pending various approvals.
Also Read: 75th Independence Day: From steam locos to Vande Bharat - the phenomenal journey of Indian Railways