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Meghalaya shifting focus to rail link

Meghalaya shifting focus to rail link

Meghalaya may not want to remain the only State to miss out on the Railway Ministry’s plan for linking all State capitals with railway tracks by 2023.

But political parties have a condition — only goods service will be allowed since the NGOs in the hill State think passenger trains will lead to an influx of outsiders.

Three of the eight capitals of the northeastern States are on the railway map. They are Guwahati (within which official capital Dispur is located), Agartala and Naharlagun (twin capital along with Itanagar).

The work to link the capitals or take the railway line to the nearest point is in progress in Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim. Meghalaya does have a railway station — Mendipathar in the North Garo Hills district, metres beyond the border with Assam — but linking Shillong has been an uphill challenge for the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR).

“We shall put pressure on the State government for a goods train to Shillong. But we honour the sentiments of the people against the introduction of passenger trains,” BJP state president Ernest Mawrie said.

The regional United Democratic Party (UDP) said goods train service to and from Shillong may be examined but not passenger trains. “Our stand is very clear, passenger trains are a no unless there is a proper mechanism in place to check influx of illegal migrants,” general secretary Jemino Mawthoh said.

The UDP and the BJP are constituents of the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance government headed by the National People’s Party.

The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and other organisations have been opposing plans to connecting Meghalaya, specifically the western half leading to Shillong, with railways. Their contention has been that it would be difficult to check the inflow of “unwanted outsiders” by train unlike in vehicles on the highways.

The NFR had in May 2017 put on hold the work on a 22-km track from Tetelia in Assam to Byrnihat in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district. This line was to have been extended to Shillong uphill.

The NFR abandoned the project after a violent protest by the KSU though about 20 km of the stretch in Assam was completed. “We have not been able to acquire land for the remaining 2.3 km in Meghalaya,” a railway official said.

Reference: The Hindu

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