Mamata fast-tracks land acquisition now
Mamata Banerjee may well have forced the Tatas out of Singur but in her new role as the railways minister does not seem to oppose land acquisition for implementing one of Indian Railways’ most ambitious projects — the Rs 47, 311-crore project to construct two dedicated freight corridors across the eastern and western flanks.
In her budget speech on July 3, Banerjee will spell out plans to take forward the scheme proposing the construction of a 3,289-km rail network. Once commissioned, (scheduled 2016-17), the dedicated lines will enable the Railways to annually carry 250 million tonnes of freight against the present 50 million tonnes.
For implementing the project, 12,000 hectares of land are proposed to acquire in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra, Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
It will also enable India to match up to the global benchmark. Currently, the Chinese Railways have a freight carrying capacity of 20,000 tonnes in each train, while the Australian Railways carries an estimated 35,000 tonnes in the long-haul trains. In contrast, one train of the Indian Railways carries a much smaller load of 5,000 tonnes.
Proposing to construct the two corridors in the public private partnership mode, the Japan Bank International Corporation has agreed to fund Rs 18,000 crore for the Rewari-Baroda section of the Western Corridor, while the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are said to be willing to fund $2.5 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively.