Leaders of various parties, cutting across their political affiliations, staged a huge dharna opposite the DRM' s office at Dondaparthy here on Monday demanding a separate railway zone with headquarters in Visakhapatnam.

They vowed to organise a joint struggle till the demand was achieved.

They said that Visakhapatnam was one of the fastest growing cities in Asia with tremendous economic, IT and industrial activities that have direct impact on the development of the coastal backward districts of Srikakulam and Vizianagaram. Visakhapatnam needs direct rail connectivity with all important stations in the country and better facilities for passengers and goods traffic. This would be possible only when a separate Railway Zone with Head Quarters in Visakhapatnam was created.

Waltair was one of the best revenue earning Divisions in India and the present area covered under the Division justifies the creation of a separate zone as previously less revenue earning and less km area in other places were accorded Zonal status.

They alleged that the authorities of the present Zonal Office at Bhubaneswar were snatching the existing facilities by reducing the berths, extending trains to Bhubaneswar, diverting important trains through Duvvada without touching Visakhapatnam and not undertaking any major developmental activities in the Region.

The speakers also demanded establishment of a Railway recruitment board (RRB) in Visakhapatnam in view of the injustice being done to candidates from the region in selections. They recalled that candidates from north Andhra who went to Bhubaneswar to take RRB examination were not allowed to take the test. Their hall-tickets were snatched and they were forced to flee from the station itself after being attacked by unruly mobs. The other demands include setting up of a freight corridor and either a coach or a wagon factory in Visakhapatnam.

The dharna was organised under the aegis of Communist Party of India, District Council secretary J.V. Satyanarayana Murthy. PRP MLA s Ganta Srinivasa Rao and Panchakarla Ramesh Babu, TDP leader and former Minister Bandaru Satyanarayana Murthy, MLA Velagapudi Ramakrishna Babu, TDP leaders Chode Venkata Pattabhiram, Vasupalli Ganesh Kumar, CPI-M district secretary K. Lokanadham, BJP city president Nagendra Kumar, former MLA K. Haribabu, party leader J. Prithviraj and Uttarandhra Rakshana Vedika convener S.S. Siva Sankar were among those who participated.

The leaders submitted a memorandum listing the demands to the DRM for forwarding to the Chairman of the Railway Board.

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