R. Ilangovan

SALEM: The Salem-Karur broad gauge rail line project has hit yet another roadblock.

With meagre funds of about Rs. 35 crore allotted this year for it in the Railway Budget, the jinxed project, which will provide a vital connectivity to the western zone with southern districts, will face inordinate delay dashing hopes of the people of both the southern and western regions who were expecting its earlier completion.

They are sore that people’s representatives from Tamil Nadu have not raised their voice over the poor allotment for the much-delayed project.“We are quite surprised at their silence. Even the newly-formed Salem Railway Division has been given a shoddy treatment,” says G. Hariharan Babu, Member, Southern Railway’s Zonal Committee.

A senior official from Chennai told The Hindu that the ministry had, in fact, allotted Rs. 35 crore. “We have told them that we need more funds, at least Rs. 100 crore, which we hope will be sanctioned. We have already spent Rs. 23 crore in three months,” he says.

Trade union activists and the general public feel that Tamil Nadu MPs and MLAs could allot funds from their Local Area Development Fund to expedite the project.

The Salem-Karur project, taken up in 1996-97, had run into trouble not only owing to fund crunch but also because of problems in land acquisitions in Salem and Namakkal districts.

However, thanks to the efforts of the then Union Minister of State for Railways R. Velu and State Agriculture Minister Veerapandi S. Arumugam, it could be resumed in 2007.

The project work is going on at a snail’s pace because of the paucity of funds.

Even earth works have not been taken up in many places in the 85 kilometre-long stretch, which is being executed in two phases, Salem-Namakkal and Namakkal- Karur.

Tenders

The Railways has floated tenders for civil works which are yet to begin in a full-fledged manner.

The initial outlay for the project was Rs. 230 crore, but now it has escalated to more than Rs. 600 crore.

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