Hundreds of villagers, among them farmers and traders, marched to Veerapandi from Cumbum on Saturday, demanding higher fund allocation for the Bodinaickanur-Madurai broad gauge conversion project in the forthcoming railway budget.

Flagging off the rally, Theni MP J.M. Haroon Rasheed called for expediting the project. He said that export of spices from Bodi had been severely affected owing to a paucity of train services. Agro-based industries and agriculture producers in Theni district were forced to depend on road transport.

The MP recalled the assurance given by the Railway Ministry on fund allocation as well as conducting a feasibility study for laying a new line between Dindigul and Cumbum.

“We hope that the Ministry will stick to its promise,” he added.

Members of Bodi-Madurai Railway Gauge Conversion Work Retrieval Committee had met the Prime Minister, Railway Minister and the Congress president in New Delhi recently and appealed for allotment of more funds to these projects.

The gauge conversion project was conceived at an estimated cost of Rs.227 crore and the Ministry had disbursed merely Rs.20 crore.

This money was spent on removal of the metre gauge rails, demolition of old bridges, and clearing of the entire stretch for laying the broad gauge line. If the Ministry delayed sanction of additional funds, the work will be held up, claimed members of traders’ associations. Gauge conversion would facilitate links to major tourist spots such as Thekkadi and Munnar, and the pilgrim centre Sabarimala in Kerala, and Vaigai dam in Theni district, they added.

The 35-km rally passed through Uthamapalayam, Chinnamanur, Seelayampatti and Kottur to reach Veerapandi in the evening.

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