As China rail link nears Nathu La, red tape holds up Sikkim line
India’s long-pending plan to put Sikkim on the railway map is stuck in a procedural muddle even as China has made rapid progress with its rail line that will reach close to Nathu La, the strategic border post in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to give the Rs 4,170-crore project a push, seven years after it was conceived, as issues linked to three Union ministries and the governments of West Bengal and Sikkim stand in the way. He is likely to take up the case during a video conference with chief secretaries of states on May 27.
The 44.96km Sivok-Rangpo line was aimed at connecting the Himalayan border state with the country’s rail network and providing an alternative transportation link. A single national highway serves as the lifeline for the state and it often gets blocked by landslides during the monsoon.
“Even as China has been rapidly constructing the 253km Lhasa-Xigaze line that will reach close to Nathula, India’s plan to provide a railway line to Sikkim is caught in complex administrative tangles. There is little possibility of the project moving forward in the near future,” an official said.
Land acquisition has been a hurdle as the route will cut through Mahananda wildlife sanctuary, forests in West Bengal and revenue land in Sikkim.
Official correspondence between Union ministries, departments and states reveal a lack of urgency to put the strategic project on track.
West Bengal maintains that “no clearances are pending with it”, the Union ministries of environment and forests, tribal affairs and law have been unable to arrive at a consensus on pending issues.