Two days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Andhra Pradesh, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal declared the work of a new railway division calling it the “South Coastal Railways,” with its headquarters in Visakhapatnam. Nevertheless, close knowledge of the South Coastal Railways actually is going to tear Andhra Pradesh of its current revenue of Rs. 7,000 crore which it is making from the Waltair Division.
As per Goyal, the new zone will cover existing Guntakal, Guntur and Vijayawada divisions. But, the Waltair division will be bifurcated, with parts of it to go to Odisha and portions of it to Andhra. A part of the Waltair division joined with East Coast Railway was earning Rs. 6,500 crore annually through freightage, while the part given to the new zone has revenues of only Rs. 500 crore through passenger traffic.
Terming this gross inequality by the BJP government at the Centre, Nara Lokesh, IT & Panchayat Raj Minister said that “then revenue-making Hyderabad was taken away and now, revenue-making Waltair division is bifurcated.” Guntakal, Guntur and Vijayawada divisions currently form part of South Central Railway, which has its headquarters in Secunderabad.
The Waltair division, presently with the East Coast Railway, which has its headquarters in Bhubaneswar, will be divided into two parts – one part to be incorporated in the new zone and merged with the Vijayawada division, while the left part will be transformed into a new division with headquarters at Rayagada (Odisha) under the East Coast Railways.
While Goyal said that the commitment made in the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014 has been fulfilled, TDP leader are crying dirty over this half-hearted decision of the BJP which has been taken by not consulting the state government or taking its opinion into concern.
As per the state government, 7 stations of Srikakulam are yet in Khurda Road Division – Palasa, Jhadupudi, Mandasa Road, Summadevi, Ichapuram, Baruva, Sompeta. “We demand that these stations also be included in the South Coast Railway zone,” said TDP MP Rammohan Naidu.
On the other hand, they are opposing the bifurcation of the Waltair division. “Waltair division must be retained in its new form & not be clubbed with Vijayawada division. Waltair is more than a name, it symbolizes the cultural significance of North Andhra. It must not be obliterated for the sake of bureaucratic ease or such superficial reasons. Railway Minister Goyal issues many questions unanswered. Of the 7 stations in Srikakulam that aren’t part of Waltair division? Why did it take 5 years to announce a zone whose technicalities were already worked out?,” questioned the TDP MP.
Additionally, TDP leaders say that listing railway zone without working out technicalities only two days before Modi visits Vizag, “shows how they play low politics with long-standing demands of people. The hasty announcement will not satisfy people. They will see into your games and gimmicks.”
Moreover, they asked the Centre to explain when the railway zone will be set and on what basis the Waltair division be divided. “Has the Railway Board been taken into confidence? Has there been a Cabinet meeting on actualizing this announcement? The railway zone declaration looks like a hasty resolution taken by the BJP government which has done more harm to the state financially, than doing it good as it will make the state hurt more financially.