C. Jaishankar

Revival of railway line will restore lost glory, feel people

RAMANATHAPURAM: The announcement made in the Railway budget to update the survey and send it for approval to the Planning Commission has raised the hope of reviving Dhanushkodi, which was devastated in the 1964 cyclone.

Until 1964 Dhanushkodi was a flourishing tourist and pilgrimage town in one of the southern tips of India. Since Sri Lanka is just 18 miles away, frequent ferry services between Dhanushkodi and Thalaimannar of then Ceylon, transporting a large number of travellers and goods across the sea. There were many hotels, textile shops and dharmashalas catering to these pilgrims and travellers.

According to the records, there was no railway station in Rameswaram till 1964, as the railway line went straight from Pamban to Dhanushkodi, which had a railway station, a railway hospital, a post office and some State government departments like fisheries, public works and others.

Though the town was totally cut off by rail and road networks by the cyclone, the pilgrims kept visiting Dhanushkodi through four-wheelers , owned by private operators, for a sacred bath at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. On an average, around 10,000 pilgrims visit Dhanushkodi and Arichamunai daily.

Railway sources said a survey had already been done in 2003 for relaying rail link between Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. It was estimated that it would cost around Rs.35 to Rs.40 crore.

Sources added that there was no need for land acquisition except for a few purposes, as the alignment could be taken up for relaying the railway line. The assets still owned by Railways at Dhanushkod could be used for constructing a terminal.

There was also a view that there was no need for undertaking fresh survey except revising the estimate. Since the cost of project was less, there would be no objection from the Planning Commission for starting the process. It could be completed within a short span of time, as there would be no major bridges except for a few minor bridges.

While welcoming the announcement of the Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, a cross section of Rameswaram people said if the railway line was revived, the glory of Dhanushkodi would also be. It would be a prelude to revive the ferry service from Dhanushkodi to Talaimannar.