The Rae Bareli rail coach factory — a pet project of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi — will be formally commissioned by the year-end. The Congress president is likely to be the chief guest at the function to mark the commercial roll-out of coaches.
Gandhi had laid the foundation stone for the factory on February 13, 2007, but later inaugurated its construction again on January 27, 2009. The project — costing approximately Rs. 2500 crore —had to be shelved because of inadequate flow of funds as well as former railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s promise of providing jobs to dispossessed farmers.
Only around Rs. 600 crore of the project’s estimated cost of Rs. 2,500 crore has been spent so far, and the tendering process for acquisition of major equipment has not been initiated yet. “Incomplete work includes building of the shell, bogey and wheel shops,” a source said.
After the Congress retrieved the railways portfolio following the exit of the Trinamool Congress from the UPA combine, the task of tying up all loose ends was taken up on a war footing. Last week, railway minister CP Joshi released Rs. 150 crore to buy machinery, and another R400 crore will reportedly be released this financial year.
The Railway Board has also initiated the task of providing jobs to 1,400 dispossessed farmers. “Offer letters (for jobs) are being typed and will be sent off shortly,” an official said.
He said that though railway guidelines on the jobs-for-land scheme does not technically apply to this case, they are providing jobs anyway.
Eighteen coaches were kept ready for commercial roll-out at the factory, but fear of protests by dispossessed farmers held the authorities back. “The roll-out can begin now, but it will take about two years to begin full-fledged production,” the official added.