V.S. Palaniappan/ M. Gunasekaran
Several long-pending demands have not been met
Coimbatore/Pollachi: But for the lone announcement on the introduction of an overnight train to Nagercoil, the Railway Budget 2007 has disappointed people in the Coimbatore region.
A daily overnight express train to Nagercoil was a long-felt need of the migrant work force from southern districts.
There were a number of long-pending demands such as introduction of an overnight train to Thiruvananthapuram or the extension of Amrita Express between Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram up to Coimbatore for the benefit of a large number Keralites living in and around Coimbatore.
While the railway officials recently hinted at the possibility of the extension of this train up to Mettuppalayam, the budget was silent on this.
As a result, Keralites in and around Coimbatore continued to rely on trains passing through Coimbatore, said Citizen's Voice Club vice-president C.M. Jayaraman.
Similarly, there was no announcement on introduction of an additional train service to Chennai, since the existing two overnight Express trains always had an unending waiting list.
The plea for increasing the frequency of at least the weekly special train also finds no mention in the budget.
The demand for an overnight express train between Bangalore (an Information Technology hub) and Coimbatore (the upcoming Information Technology City) was also ignored in the budget.
Passengers travelling between these two cities have to invariably depend on the daytime Inter City Express or on the minimum quota of seats available in the Island Express from Kanyakumari to Bangalore, says S. Vaidyanathakrishnan of Coimbatore Railway Passengers Association.
The plea for a train service to Rameshwaram on the broad gauge line via Erode - Karur - Tiruchi and Madurai for the time being till completion of the Coimbatore - Dindigul gauge conversion had not been conceded.
There was no announcement on introduction of at least a weekly twice train service to Tirupati using the rakes of the weekly trains that lie idle at Coimbatore.
The decade-old demand and the five-year-old project i.e., line doubling between Coimbatore North and Irugur will get further delayed because of the allocation of only Rs 10 crore as against the need of more than Rs 30 crore.
The mission for doubling this line before March 2008 is impossible, says Coimbatore Consumer Cause secretary K. Kathirmathiyon.
Allocation of Rs 3 crore as against the demand for Rs 35 crore to establish Salem Railway Division would only delay the process, said K. Ramakrishnan of the Salem Railway Division Protection Struggle Committee.
Allocation of Rs. 30 crore for the gauge conversion between Dindigul and Coimbatore/Palakkad in the Railway Budget has evoked mixed response in the region. The broad gauge conversion project was included in the last year's budget and got a token allotment of Rs.1 crore against the total project cost of Rs. 353.9 crore.
As there was no progress, the public, trade bodies, political parties and service organisations observed bandh a week ago at Pollachi and Udumalpet towns, urging the Railways to allocate a substantial amount in the budget. Pollachi MP C. Krishnan (MDMK) expressed satisfaction over the allocation.
"I am very much satisfied with the present allocation. I will take all steps to get more funds to complete the project at the earliest as the works go on,'' he adds.
However, Pollachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry was upset with the allocation, which it said was meagre. Chamber vice-president G.D. Gopalakrishnan said that they were expecting an allotment of close to Rs. 100 crore. "If the ministry had allotted Rs. 100 crore, the stretch between Pollachi and Podanur/Palakkad could have been completed in the first phase.
That would have helped us get direct rail connectivity to Chennai, Bangalore and places in Kerala. The present allocation is insufficient and there would be no substantial progress on the ground,'' Mr Gopalakrishnan said.
Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, which has been spearheading the agitation for the last couple years, termed the allocation a solace. General secretary K. Ramakrishnan said the Coimbatore-Pollachi-Udumalpet-Palani-Dindigul route was an important one as it directly connected Coimbatore with Madurai and the southern districts.
"The railways should complete the stretch in a time-bound manner,'' he said.