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Territorial considerations mark rly zones

Rabindra Nath Sinha

The exercise also raises serious doubts about the viability of more than half of the 16 zonal railways that will come into existence on implementation of the new reorganisation scheme.

KOLKATA, July 18

THE envisaged redistribution of divisions as a sequel to the move creating seven new railway zones as also carve out eight new divisions clearly suggests that territorial considerations have influenced the decisions of the powers-that-be.

An analysis of the proposed redistribution shows that the South-Eastern Railway (SER) will become a heavily truncated zone when the new arrangement is operationalised. Territorial considerations are conspicuous in the jurisdiction earmarked for the East-Central Railway (ECeR), headquartered at Hajipur in Bihar.

Two other zonal outfits to lose rather heavily will be the Northern Railway (NR) and the Southern Railway (SR). Only the North-East Frontier Railway (NFR) escapes the axe.

The exercise done by the Rail Bhavan also raises serious doubts about the viability of more than half of the 16 zonal railways that will come into existence on implementation of the new scheme.

First about SER, which is often referred to by railwaymen as the Steel Enterprise Railway on account of carrying 90 per cent of the country's steel traffic. It will the only zonal outfit to see trifurcation under the new scheme.

To be carved out of the SER are the East Coast Railway (ECoR) with headquarters at Bhubaneswar and the South-East Central Railway (SECR) with headquarters at Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh. ECoR will get SER's Khurda Road, Waltair (Vizag) and Sambalpur divisions while SECR is to have SER's Nagpur, Bilaspur and the newly created Raipur divisions. The consolation prize for SER, which will retain only Kharagpur, Adra and Chakradharpur out of its existing divisions, will be the newly created Ranchi division.

In this context, it may be mentioned that the original decision of Mr Ram Vilas Paswan as Railway Minister in 1996 to create six new zones did not include one for Bilaspur. The decision to have SECR as the seventh new zonal establishment was made in 1998. The envisaged jurisdiction for ECeR, which is at the root of Ms Mamata Banerjee's outbursts ever since Mr Nitish Kumar's plans became public, truncates not only the Eastern Railway (ER) but also the North-Eastern Railway (NER), which has its headquarters at Gorakhpur.

The ER, headquartered in Kolkata, will lose its Mughalsarai, Dhanbad and Danapur divisions to ECeR, which is also to get the Sonepur and Samastipur divisions of NER.

The proposed jurisdiction for ECeR is clearly much more than what the other new zonal railways are going to have under the new arrangement. If Mr Kumar has his way, the ER will be left with the Howrah, Sealdah, Malda and Asansol divisions.

The NR will lose the Bikaner and Jodhpur divisions to the new North-Western Railway (NWR) with headquarters at Jaipur and the Allahabad division to the new North-Central Railway (NCR) with headquarters at Allahabad. The NCR will also have under its jurisdiction the proposed division at Agra. In effect, Uttar Pradesh, which currently has only the headquarters of one zonal railway, that is the NER, will be the headquarters of two zonal railways.

As for the SR headquartered in Chennai, it is seen that it has to lose the Bangalore and Mysore divisions to the new South-Western Railway (SWR) with headquarters at Hubli. Naturally, the Hubli division, now under South-Central Railway (SCR), will become part of SWR.

The first point to emerge in the context of SCR is that despite losing the Hubli division, it will have a new division at Guntur. The second point is that at one stage the Rail Bhavan had mooted the inclusion of the Guntakal division under the jurisdiction of the new SWR. But the Andhra Chief Minister and the Telugu Desam Party MPs wanted Guntakal to remain part of SCR. New Delhi conceded.

Finally, about the NFR headquartered at Guwahati. It not only retains the existing Katihar, Alipurduar and Lumding divisions but also gets a new division at Rangia.

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