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HindustanTimes Fri,24 Oct 2014

Army cries out for a second railway line between Barmer and Jaisalmer

Presley Thomas, Hindustan Times  Barmer, December 17, 2009
First Published: 14:39 IST(17/12/2009) | Last Updated: 14:43 IST(17/12/2009)

On September 8, 1965, a company of 5 Maratha Light Infantry was sent to reinforce a Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (RAC) post at Munabao - a strategic hamlet about 250 kilometres from Jodhpur. Their brief was simple. To hold the post and to keep Pakistan's infantry battalions from overrunning the post at bay.

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But at Maratha Hill (in Munabao) - as the post has now been christened - the Indian company could barely manage to thwart the intense attack for 24 hours.

A company of 3 Guards with 954 heavy mortar battery ordered to reinforce the RAC post at Munabao could never reach. The Pakistani Air Force had strafed the entire area, and also hit a railway train coming from Barmer with reinforcements near Gadra road railway station.

On September 10, Munabao fell into Pakistani hands, and efforts to capture the strategic point did not succeed.

It has been 44 years since 1965 war, and nothing much has changed in the Barmer sector, say Border Security Force and Indian Army officials.

The vital points of Barmer and Jaisalmer still runs on a single-track broad gauge railway facility. It causes apprehension considering it will be tough to move troops and equipments in case of contingency, said Indian Army officials.

Army officials said, there should be double track railway lines to Barmer and Jaisalmer sectors considering its strategic importance. But railway authorities have shunned the project due to little commercial viability. North-Western railways public relations officer Gopal Sharma said, "At present the railways is not looking to have a double track between Jodhpur-Barmer or in the Jaisalmer sector as there is little commercial viability." The railways would think to double the track only if there is considerable traffic on these lines, added
Sharma.

Brigadier (retired) Gurmeet Kanwal, director of Center for Land Warfare Studies (New Delhi) said, "Two lines in these sectors are essential to facilitate troop movement. A decision has to be made which in certain sectors should not consider commercial viability."

"If we look at Pakistan's Order of Battle (ORBAT), they have a brigade positioned at Naya Chor - an area about 60 kilometres from the border."1

While the closet Indian Army is positioned is in Barmer, about 120 kilometres away. It would take us double the time to reach the border," said an Indian Army officer, requesting anonymity. Additional troops, if needed, have to be moved from Jodhpur, added the officer. In case of war, it would be very tough to move a division - an army unit consisting about 10,000 men -along with the weapons and equipments, considering there is only a single track existing to Barmer.

To move a division from Ahmedabad in Gujarat - more than 500 kilometres away- by road to this sector would take days. "That sort of time will not be available in modern day warfare. And we will not be able to risk movement of troops on this railway track, considering the enemy side could bomb it. The strategy would be different if the tracks were doubled," the officer added.


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