The assertion of the General Manager of East Coast Railway A.K. Vohra that there was no proposal for the merger of Waltair Division, now part of the ECoR, with the South Central Railway, is likely to stir up a hornet’s nest. Mr. Vohra who took over as GM of ECoR recently and came on a two-day visit to Visakhapatnam, in a brief chat with mediapersons, said that he was not aware of any such proposal.
Formation of a new zone with headquarters at Visakhapatnam or merger of the Waltair Division with the SCR has been a long-pending demand of people of these parts.
It was some two decades ago that the Government of Andhra Pradesh addressed a letter to the Ministry of Railways, demanding merger of the Waltair division with the SCR. Some time ago the then Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, wrote to the then Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, with the same demand. Lok Sabha member from Visakhapatnam, D. Purandeswari, wrote a strongly-worded letter to the present Railway Minister, Mamta Banerjee, pointing out the deplorable state of affairs at the Waltair division because of its negligence by the previous regime South Eastern and the present East Coast Railway.
Ms. Purandeswarai, who during her election campaign announced that merger of Waltair division would be top most in her agenda and who is now the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, asserted that the core working of Waltair division centred round transport of iron ore from Bailadila mines, imports and exports through Visakhapatnam harbour, and businessmen, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Trade had closer links with the AP Government departments and they had hardly any thing to do with Bhubaneswar, the headquarters of EcoR.
Diversion of important trains from Visakhapatnam to Bhubaneswar, depriving local people of reservation facilities for trains like Visakha Express from Secunderabad and Prashanthi Express from Bangalore, resulted in a feeling of alienation. Another MP and former Union Minister T. Subbarami Reddy had been following the issue for quite some time and a group of MPs, led by Anakapalle MP (Congress) Sabbam Hari, met the Railway Minister with the same demand.
The TDP had announced that it would launch an all-party campaign for the merger of Waltair division with the SCR. Local voluntary organisations like Praja Spanadana had been in the forefront demanding a separate zone.