Non-resident Odia (NRO) Prof Digambara Patra of the American University of Beirut has strongly condemned the favouritism shown to south and west India for political gain and the negligence shown to mineral bearing States like Odisha, Chhattisgarh and MP in the current Railway Budget.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Patra said his NDA Government should not repeat the same blunders of the Congress of the last 65 years of showing special favour to certain regions at the cost of the rest for political concerns.
He said that the people of the country had a lot of expectations from the Modi Government on even allocation of funds for growth including in the railway sector, but things on the ground has remainedsomewhat worrying. Prof Patra also equalled Railways Minister Sadananda Gowda with that of his predecessors and said he was befooling the people.
“If one carefully analyses the number of projects in this Budget, somehow the Railways Ministry had tried to woo Karnataka in various projects: new trains (7 trains to Bengaluru alone against none to KBK-Odisha), new survey, newlines, tourism cluster, etc. and served the interest of Gujarat and UP largely for the Prime Minister’s political interest. Earlier former Railways Ministers had been also doing the same: taking political interest of their own,” said Patra.
Lamenting that the mineral bearing regions and tribal and backward pockets of the country have always been neglected in the railway sector because the top leaders always concentrated on the growth of their region for political reasons, Patra called for a need to promote the underdeveloped areas on a priority basis.
He said that locations in Odisha and Chhatisgarh, that supply coal, iron, steel and aluminum for railway infrastructure and manufacturing unit, are never considered for railway coach factory.
Narla road (comes under profit making ECoR zone) in KBK districts is located at the junction of three public sector steel plants in Bhilai (Chhattisgarh), Rourkela (Odisha) and Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh). It is also close to MCL coal blocks in Angul and Jharsuguda (Odisha). Nalco, Balco, HAL and Vedanta Alumina are all located very close to it. Such a location was never considered.
At the same time Chhapra (comes under loss making North Eastern zone) and Kolkata (comes of loss making Eastern zone) were the locations selected by the Railways for factories, he said.
MP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha have railway track less than national average per every 1,000 sq km. But tribal and backward pockets of these States are continuously ignored to suit political interest.
The current Railway Budget encourages favouritism and widens the gap between backward clusters like KBK and rich cities like Bangaluru, Delhi, Ahemadabad and Mumbai, added Patra.