NABARANGPUR: Even after six decades of agitations and demands, railway connectivity continues to elude the backward district of Nabarangpur. Home to over 14 lakh people, Nabarangpur comes under schedule area dominated by tribals and Dalits.
The district these days is making headlines due to increased Maoist activities. People here feel it is unfortunate that in a poor and backward district like Nabarangpur, development of rail network has so far not received much attention since Independence. Absence of railway connectivity is attributed as the primary reason for backwardness of the district and heightened Maoist activities.
A report by the Planning Commission had stated: “Railways have always played an important role in economic development and social transformation in every part of the country. However, it is unfortunate that seven districts of Odisha, including Nabarangpur and Malkangiri, do not have any railway connectivity.”
Intelligentsia here said the Indian Railways makes huge profit from its operations in Odisha. “The current policy of the Railways is flawed and detrimental to the backward areas like the KBK. Of all zones, SECR, ECoR and SER are the top profit-making zones. The profit mostly comes from transporting minerals available in the backward districts of Odisha,” they said.
Locals opined that Indian Railways builds high speed corridors, freight corridors, and metro rails in other parts of the country, but it should not forget the poor, backward and tribal-dominated areas like Nabarangpur.
Locals have been urging the Government to consider railway project in the KBK region as national project. They demanded early completion of Lanjigarh Road-Junagarh-Nabarangpur-Jeypore-Malkangiri-Bhadrachalam line.
Survey work for this line was completed long back and work from Lanjigarh Road to Junagarh in Kalahandi district has been completed. This line will pass through most of the Maoist-infested and tribal-dominated areas of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Congress leader and former MP Pradeep Majhi said during his tenure, he had proposed a new railway line from Nabarangpur to Kantabanji via Dabugam-Jharigam-Dharamgarh-Khariar which will benefit people of Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Balangir districts of KBK region. There is a narrow gauge railway line from Raipur via Dhantari (Chhattisgarh) which comes till the border of Nabarangpur district near Raighar.
The district administration had submitted a proposal to convert the narrow gauge to broad gauge and extend it to Nabarangpur via Raighar-Umerkote-Dabugam-Papadahandi by constructing a new railway line. However, during the UPA regime, no attention was paid towards any of these demands.
The new BJD MP of Nabarangpur, Balabhadra Majhi, who was an engineer with Indian Railways, had made the issue his poll plank during campaigning for the General Elections.