Shillong: Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Friday said the state government will be engaging with different stakeholders to take forward a proposal to start goods trains to the capital of Meghalaya as this would help the state’s economy, including the farming sector.
The state has just one railway station as yet and there are plans for two long-delayed railway projects, one of which will link Shillong to the rest of India by railway.
Opposition from local groups which fear connectivity with the rest of India by rail links would bring in an influx of settlers from the mainland, has till now stalled railway projects in this mountainous predominantly tribal state.
He said the government is “engaging with different stakeholders to see if goods trains can be introduced”.
“As I said, we are very clear on our stand that we would like to engage with everybody, discuss this matter (goods trains) and take it forward in an amicable way,” Sangma said at an informal interaction with the media here.
He also said that people are not against railways but that they want the government to find solutions “to the issue of influx and the protection of the indigenous people”.
“Everybody understands the importance of railways and people are not against that. Hence, we are engaging with the organisations opposing railways to understand and to find out options against influx,” he said.
He underlined the need to find provisions to safeguard influx of outsiders yet at the same time batted for the railways to boost the economy of the state.
The Centre has proposed two railway projects in the state the 22-km Tetelia-Byrnihat tracks and the 108-km Byrnihat-Shillong line.
The Tetelia-Byrnihat project to be implemented at a cost of Rs 496 crore is stalled due to stiff opposition by activists and strong opposition from different quarters apprehending influx.
Those opposing railways have been demanding the implementation of an inner line permit (ILP) which would have to be take by anyone from outside Meghalaya to enter the state.
However, the Chief Minister said ILP is only one of the ways to address the apprehension of influx and that the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly has already passed a resolution urging the Centre to implement ILP.
On the status of the proposed railway projects, the chief minister said that the government is yet to receive the No-objection certificate (NOC) from the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC).
“I have taken up with the Minister for Railway, Government of India and urged that these are matters that we need to consult and take our stakeholders into confidence and hence, we require time to discuss matters with them and only once we are able to resolve and come to some kind of understanding would we want to go ahead. So that is the status as of now,” he said.
The chief minister said that during his last visit to New Delhi, the railway minister had pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would like to see all state capitals to be connected with railway lines in the larger interest of the nation to ensure that the overall economy prosper.
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“Obviously, the prime minister has good intentions … (however) every state has its own complications and obviously in our state, railway has been an issue where a lot of different organisations and also different traditional heads have raised concerns regarding issues of influx and hence, we need to understand that though the importance of railway is understood, it is also important to carry our people along,” Sangma said.
He said he had explained this to the union railway minister and said that “we hope that we would find solutions (to issues bedevilling the entry of railways in the state) at the earliest.”
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