Political tussle between the Congress and the BJD has commenced in Ganjam district with the proposed railway project to link Gopalpur and Rayagada in South Odisha tuning out to be a contentious issue.

Congress leaders such as former Union Minister Chandrasekhar Sahu allege that the project is bogged in delays because of lack of persuasion by the BJD government in the State and the BJD MPs who represent the area.

Countering the allegation, BJD leaders, including MP Renubala Pradhan, say it is the Centre that is not showing interest in the project.

The 258-km broad gauge track-laying project has, in principle, been approved by the Planning Commission. But funds have not been sanctioned in the Railway Budget of current financial year.

Mr. Sahu has blamed the BJD MPs for non-allocation of funds.

Mr. Sahu claimed that he took up the issue with the Railway Minister recently and received an assurance from him that some funds would be allocated during the supplementary budget of the Railways.

The BJD leaders, however, say it is nothing but a political gimmick by Mr. Sahu before the elections.

In February 2009, Mr. Sahu, who was then Union Minister of State for Rural Development, had launched the survey work of the railway project at Gopalpur. Mr. Sahu claimed that the Railway Ministry had agreed to take up the survey following his persuasion. The survey work on the project has been completed.

The project is a long-standing demand of the people of South Odisha. It could be a major catalyst for development of the underdeveloped areas of Rayagada district. After completion, it was expected to usher in industrial growth as it would improve transportation of bauxite ore from Koraput and Rayagada districts of South Odisha to the processing units and transportation of the processed alumina and aluminium ingots from the manufacturing units at Damanjodi to the Gopalpur port. The  railway track would also help in transportation of coal from Ib Valley to various parts of South Odisha.

It would link Gopalpur port and the industrial town of Rayagada. This apart, it would also link several towns of Ganjam and Kandhamal districts such as Bhanjanagar, Aska, Tikabali, Phulbani, which are till date out of the Railway map.

The proposed broad gauge track is estimated to cost Rs.1,392.327 crore. As per the assessment, the Rate of Return (RoR) would be 15.04 per cent, which makes it a viable project.

The Congress leaders have demanded that the State government and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik take immediate measures to provide land and other infrastructure for the railway project.

Delays dog the 258-km broad gauge track-laying project, considered a catalyst for development