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TN minister threatens rail blockade

Tamil Nadu Agriculture Minister Veerapandi S Arumugam said all trains coming from or going towards Kerala at the Salem junction would be blocked from Saturday.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2007 22:23 IST

Irked by delay in the creation of a new railway division based in Salem, Tamil Nadu Agriculture Minister Veerapandi S Arumugam on Wednesday said all trains coming from or going towards Kerala at the Salem junction would be blocked from Saturday.

Passengers from Kerala travelling to north India will be in trouble if the threat of railway blockade, supported by all sides of the political divide in western Tamil Nadu, is carried out.

Arumugam, who also heads the Salem unit of the state's ruling DMK party, criticised Railway Minister Lalu Prasad for informing parliament that no date had been fixed for inauguration of the proposed Salem Division.

Southern Railway has maintained that arrangements had already been made for the inaugural function Sep 14.

Arumugam pointed out in a statement here that Tamil Nadu had repeatedly clarified that the creation of the Salem Division by bifurcating the existing Palakkad Division - common to the two neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala - would comprise only railway stations falling in Tamil Nadu.

The five-decade-old demand for a separate railway division for Salem had been conceded only in the 2005-06 budget.

Arumugam recalled that the Supreme Court had turned down petitions filed by various Kerala-based bodies twice citing inability to interfere into administrative matters of the railway ministry.

Yet, Kerala MPs had kept up pressure in parliament, leading to Lalu Prasad's statement indicating an amicable solution through a series of talks between himself and the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Armugam added.

"People in Kerala cannot deny people of Tamil Nadu their right to a new railway division formed by bringing together some railway stations within their state. This is our right, and we cannot sacrifice it," he averred.

"Therefore, until the central government gives a categorical assurance that the inauguration would be held as scheduled on Sep 14, we will not allow any trains from the Palakkad Division to pass through Salem towards Chennai, New Delhi or other destinations. Similarly, other trains going towards destinations in Kerala through Salem will also be blocked," Arumugam revealed.