Sunday, December 16, 2007

Maoist cloud over Chhattisgarh rail link initiative


235-km Dalli Rajhara-Jagdalpur project being planned for 10 yrs now.Doubts expressed that hilly terrain will delay construction, spikecosts.ECoR has reduced no. rakes & locomotives on Kirandul-Kottavalsa line route due to threat.


Kolkata, Dec. 13 A section in the Indian Railways is not sure if theproposed PPP (public-private partnership) initiative with SAIL, NMDCand the Chhattisgarh Government to construct a 235-km-long broad-gaugeline between Dalli Rajhara and Jagdalpur via Rowghat to expedite ironore movement can be implemented in view of the intense Maoist activityin the area.

"The proposed stretch falls within the areas controlled by the Maoists who are out to destabilise everything," observe railway sources,adding, "also, the terrain being hilly, the time to be taken for the construction can be long and the cost staggering." The project isbeing discussed for nearly 10 years now, it is pointed out.

The sources particularly refer to the extremely difficult situationalready being created by the Maoists on the 450-km-longKirandul-Kottavalsa line under the East Coast Railway (ECoR). The lineis used for transportation of iron ore from NMDC's mines, largelylocated in the Chhattisgarh areas, to Visakhapatnam.


In past six months, hardly a month passed when normal movement of ironore was not affected by one problem or the other, all created by theMaoists. It started in June, with the blowing up of electrictransmission towers at several places in Chhattisgarh, suspendingpower supply to the railways and paralysing rake movement for nearly three weeks.

There was virtually no movement on the route in the first week of this month as Maoists derailed the locomotives, kidnapped the drivers, and uprooted the rail track over certain stretches, thus totally paralysing movement.Subsequently, movement of iron ore resumed but partially, and onlyduring the day time. The movement at night remained totally suspended.The railway authorities took the issue up with the ChhattisgarhGovernment but with little result. The Chhattisgarh Government too, itappears, is helpless.


The situation now is limping back to normal but the ECoR authorities,as the sources point out, are keeping their fingers crossed. The railemployees working in the area live under constant threat; sometimesthey are taken as hostage.

No wonder that the ECoR has reduced the number of rakes andlocomotives for operation on the route. As the situation stands, ironore transportation on the Kiruandul-Kottavals a Line is a difficultproposition, both operationally and financially. The cost oftransportation is nearly four times the cost in the plains.

In the normal situation, iron ore throughput on theKiruandul-Kottavals a Line should be about 14/15 million tonnesannually which this year might drop to around 10 million tonnes or so,the railway sources estimate.

Meanwhile, the disruption in power supply by Gridco to Paradip porthas also affected the mechanical operation of the port. Only manualhandling is being undertaken now. ECoR, which also caters to therequirement of Paradip, has restricted the number of rakes carryingboth coal and iron ore to the port, it is learnt.

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