Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rebel shadow on rail link grows longer

- Hazaribagh project cost soars by Rs 500cr in 10 years as state, police engage in blame game


Hazaribagh, March 15: The inordinate delay in completion of the Hazaribagh-Ranchi-Koderma railway link has jacked up the project cost by nearly Rs 500 crore.

Railway officials blame Maoists for the delay. A “dormant” administration, not taking action against the rebels, has allowed frequent attacks on the project. On several occasions, construction companies were targeted and expensive machines set on fire. Railway officials confirmed that due to the Maoist threat, only 80km out of this 200km project had been completed.

Officials hinted that the ambitious project would take another six to seven years to be completed. Earlier, the cost for completion of this project was estimated to be Rs 1,033 crore. Now, costs have increased to more than Rs 1,500 crore.

Of this, the state would have to bear 67 per cent and the railways would cough up the rest of the money. “Between Ranchi and Barkakana, 67.3km of tracks will be laid at an estimated cost of Rs 393 crore. For Koderma and Hazaribagh, the total amount needed is Rs 332 crore to lay tracks and construct 15 big bridges,” said a railway official, adding that over the past 10 years, only a 5km track had been laid.

Pointing out that over the past 10 years, only 15 per cent of work had been completed, railway officials raised fingers at the state machinery for not co-operating with them.

But Chatra superintendent of police Akhilesh Jha said that the contractor firm, Khazana Company, had never demanded security from them. He said that they were ready to provide adequate security to the company for safe and smooth completion of the project.

Sources said that Maoists had often attacked railway lines between Katkamsandi (Hazaribagh) and Simaria (Chatra) areas. On March 13, they had targeted machines resulting in losses of Rs 3 crore to Khazana Company of Calcutta. The company is now finding it hard to work on the 30km stretch between Katkamsandi and Badgaon of Simaria as rebels had disturbed the work a number of times demanding hefty amounts as levy.

Gobind Yadav, who suffered loss in rampage of Maoists on March 13 night, said that he was now busy removing machines from the spot. Lakshman Prasad Yadav also said that they had come there with dumpers to work there but the Maoist rampage had created terror in the area. “The Maoists also passed instruction to stop work or face dire consequences,” he added.

Work on constructing a station in Hazaribagh has also not begun so far.

“Thanks to the slow pace of the work, I am sure that only our grandsons will be able to see a train in Hazaribagh,” local residents Alok Parwar and Md Shamshad Yusuf, the managers in a multi-national company, joked.

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