GOLAKGANJ, March 10 � A new broad gauge (BG) railway line connecting New Mainaguri, Mathabbanga, Chengrabandha, Coochbehar, to Jogighopa via Boxirhat-Dhubri-Gauripur and other places has been a long-standing demand of the people in the backward districts of Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar of North Bengal and Dhubri, Bongaigaon, Goalpara and parts of Kokrajhar districts in Assam, besides the districts of East Garo Hills and West Garo Hills in Meghalaya.
Around 80 % of the population of these areas belong to poor strata of the society. There has been no industrial development of the region mainly for want of adequate infrastructural facilities, including railway network. However, the demand has been overlooked by the railway authorities since the past 50 years.
The transportation facilities available before the Independence were also stopped. This part of the country was connected before Independence with the mainland India through then undivided Bengal (now Bangladesh). Besides this rail link, the region was connected with Kolkata through the river Brahmaputra, Dhubri town being then the biggest inland river port of Assam. Further, the two airports � at Rupshi that was constructed during World War II and at Coochbehar constructed much earlier� remain unutilised even today.
The new Mainaguri-Jogighopa Railway Demand Committee�s joint convenor Tazmul Hoque said all the transport links had been snapped after independence and that the people of the area had been virtually cut off from the mainstream of the national life.
All the districts of Assam, North Bengal and Meghalaya yearning for the proposed railway are very rich in forest wealth. Sal, Teak, Sishu, Segun, Bonsom, Gamari, and numerous other varieties of valuable trees grow in abundance in the forests of the area. Moreover, bamboo, cane, pati bet (a variety of cane used in making mats), medicinal plants and herbs, orchids, resins and other varieties of plants and trees and other forest products are abundantly available in the forests of this region.
The region is rich in mineral resources also. Dolomite, an essential raw material for production of cement and coal are abundantly available in the said two districts of Meghalaya. Dolomite is also available in the Jalpaiguri district of North Bengal.
The proposed railway line from New Mainaguri to Jogighopa and other places covers a distance of 270 km approximately. Thus, earth work for construction of rail route is likely to cost much less as compared to other places. This proposed railway line will help optimal utilisation of the Naranarayan Setu over the river Brahmaputra at Jogighopa, which is a road-cum-railway bridge. The total cost for construction of the proposed line is estimated to be Rs 1400 crore.
The proposed railway line passing through the districts of West Bengal and Assam bordering Bangladesh, now a friendly country will be strategically important from the defence point of view also. The demand is justified in view of the fact that the per capita railway line in this region is very negligible and much below the national average.
The demand for expansion of railway network in this region was raised at conventions in Tufanganj (Coochbehar district) and Bijni (erstwhile Goalpara district) in 1961. Then Northeast Frontier Railway general manager late BC Ganguly took some initiative in this regard, but subsequently the matter was abandoned by the railway authorities for reasons best known to them. Recently, the joint convenor of New Mayanaguri-New Coochbehar-Dhubri-Jogigopha-Railway extension Demand Committee submitted a memorandum to the Railway Minister to complete the construction works of the BG line immediately.