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Good news for North East-All states to get rail connectivity by 2020

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By Newsgram Staff Writer

The Indian railways is planning to connect all the eight states in India’s northeast by 2020. Currently, northeastern states have around 2,700 km of railway line comprising meter gauge and broad gauge lines.

“We would connect all the states of the eight states by rail within 2020,” Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) General manager Rakesh Kumar Singh said, while addressing a press conference here on Monday. Singh, leading a 45-member NFR team, arrived at the Silchar railway station from Guwahati on Sunday with the first nine-bogie railway trial inspection train, which left for Guwahati on Monday. The NFR team successfully carried out the trial run of a diesel engine from Lumding to Silchar on the newly-converted broad gauge line on Friday.

Mizoram and Manipur

Aizawl and Imphal would be connected by railway network by 2018 and 2019 respectively. The capitals of the remaining states would be linked by 2020. Work is on to achieve the target, officials said.

Tripura and Assam

Tripura’s capital Agartala is already connected by rail though the line between Silchar (Assam) and Agartala is meter gauge. Agartala came up on the country’s rail map in 2008. The Silchar-Agartala railway track would be converted from meter gauge to broad gauge by March next year.

Meghalaya and Sikkim

Railway lines will reach Meghalaya’s capital Shillong and Rangpo in Sikkim by March 31, 2020. Work is in full swing to fulfill the projects within time to connect Nagaland capital Kohima. At present, the state has 13 km railway line up to Dimapur town.

The regular train service on the new broad gauge line would be conducted from April after clearance by the Railway Safety Commissioner. The total length of Lumding-Silchar broad gauge line is 220 km and it consists of 17 tunnels (the longest 3.235 km long), 79 major bridges, 340 minor bridges, 28 railway stations and four halt stations.

History of the rail project in the North Eastern Region

The foundation of the much-delayed gauge conversion project – Lumding to Silchar and Silchar to Agartala – was laid by the then prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda at Silchar in 1996. The railways have faced severe criticism for the delay in completing the Rs.5,185-crore project that is considered to be a lifeline for southern Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur. Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, in his budget speech in parliament on February 26, said the Indian Railways was committed to providing rail connectivity to all the northeastern states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 29, 2014 flagged off a train between Meghalaya’s Mendipathar and Guwahati, a distance of 131 km, and laid the foundation stone for a 51.38 km new broad gauge railway line between Bhairabi and Sairang in Mizoram. On February 20, Modi flagged off the first weekly air-conditioned express train service between Delhi and Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar.

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Tea Body of Assam Slam ‘Chaiwala’ Modi

The tea labourers of Assam live in the most deplorable conditions without some of the basic amenities, Gowala said

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Assam tea body slam 'chaiwala' Modi,

The largest tea body of Assam on Sunday slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often refer to himself as a “chaiwala”, for not being considerate towards the state’s tea garden workers’ plight and urged him to implement the promised minimum wage of Rs 350 before the new year starts.

The Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) General Secretary Rupesh Gowala said while Modi often refers to himself as a “chaiwala”, he is yet make good on his promises towards a million tea garden labourers in the state in the last four years.

“Before the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, Modi addressed several rallies in Assam and assured that the tea garden labourers would be paid a minimum wage of Rs 350 per day,” Gowala said.

“If this happens, the 10,00,000 tea garden labourers will lose Rs 30 each day for two months. Is it a “chaiwala” Prime Minister who is doing this to his own community?” said Gowala.

The tea garden workers in Brahmaputra Valley in Assam are presently drawing Rs 167 per day while the tea garden workers in Barak Valley are getting Rs 145 per day.

“The existing wage agreement between the Assam government and the ACMS and other tea workers bodies expired on December 31, 2017.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (Wikimedia Commons)

“The government had announced an interim hike of Rs 30 per day. The tea garden labourers are supposed to get this interim hike from January 1, 2018, but the government is saying the hike will apply from March 1, 2018.

“This would make them lose Rs 30 per day for two months,” he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Assam is yet to fix that minimum wage, Gowala said, urging Modi to announce the promised Rs 350 per day minimum wage before 2019.

Gowala said the condition of all those tea gardens run by the Assam government was far worse.

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“While the labourers in company-owned garden are receiving a wage of Rs. 167 per day now, the 26,000 workers under the 14 gardens of state-owned Assam Tea Company Limited (ATCL) are receiving a wage of Rs 115 only per day,” he said.

Assam has over 800 medium and large size tea gardens that produces over 50 per cent of the country’s total tea produce.

The tea labourers of Assam live in the most deplorable conditions without some of the basic amenities, Gowala said. (IANS)