NEW DELHI, Sept 29 � Six decades after the country gaining independence, all the capitals of the North Eastern States are likely to find place on the railway map, with the Railway Ministry projecting rail connection by 2016.
The revised projection was given by the officials of the Railway Ministry at the 59th meeting of the North Eastern Council (NEC) on Tuesday. The Department of Telecom, Inland Waterways were among other ministries that made presentation on the Action Plan for implementation of the North East Vision 2020 document.
Briefing newsmen, Union Minister for DoNER and Mines, Bijoy Krishna Handique said according to the projection, all State capitals in the region would be connected by the railways by 2016 at an estimated expenditure of Rs 17,000 crore. Currently only Assam and a part of Nagaland and area bordering Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura boast of rail connection.
One of the thorny issues, that of land acquisition appears to have been resolved, with the attending Chief Minister agreeing to expedite the process of handing over of the land to the Railways. Meghalaya Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Sanga assured to hand over land within three months, officials said.
Shillong is scheduled to come on the railway map of the country by 2014, according to the revised estimate.
However, majority of the rail projects in the region have slipped deadlines. The Lumding-Badarpur Gauge Conversion project is now scheduled to be completed by 2013. Handique said he is going to visit Silchar in December to �ascertain why the work has slowed down�.
Officials said it is the technical snag that is holding up the work, as the Railways now expects to complete the 3 km tunnel work in the section only by 2013. Earlier, it was militancy in North Cachar Hill district that held up the project work.
Meanwhile, the Department of Telecom drew the maximum flak, with the chief ministers complaining about the shoddy services provided by the BSNL in the North-east.
There were discussion on development of the inland waterways, as well as various options of reopening of the Brahmaputra river as a freight corridor for commercial use, introduction of adventure sports and promoting the river as tourist destination were deliberated upon.
In this connection, the demand to name Barak river as National Waterway Eight has been forwarded. The development of 1200 km route from Lakhipur to Bangladesh border is expected to cost Rs 900 crore.
Meanwhile, the plan to float a regional airways initiated by the DoNER Ministry has been dropped. The NEC had twice floated tenders inviting bids from private air operators but there were no takers.