On 26th December 2018, on the 21st foundation day of Biju Janata Dal, party president and CM Shri Naveen Patnaik, while addressing a rally at Puri, came down heavily on the NDA government at centre led by PM Narendra Modi. Central to his attack was how the current dispensation at Delhi has completely neglected Odisha. One of the prominent narratives among his 9 point attack was that the central government has failed to create and augment rail and highway infrastructure in Odisha. Since then, it had been repeated ad nauseam, without being backed by any data or specific questions.
So here is the data on Railways and Highways on what this government has done vis-a-vis previous governments to help our readers make an informed decision.
As of 2017, Odisha has 2572.16 KM of rail route at a density of 15.03 KM per thousand KM against a national average of 19 KM. Clearly, Odisha is lagging here and much needed to be done to connect the hinterlands and LWE affected areas. New, as well as capacity augmentation projects sanctioned in the late 90s and early 2000s, have been started after 2014 since the UPA government literally did nothing for Railways in Odisha except the introduction of some new trains. In fact, East Coast Railway, which is the major railway zone in Odisha headquartered at Bhubaneswar, became a separate zone, last time BJP was in power under Atal Behari Vajpayee. After that, Odisha suffered for 10 years before getting its due share in 2014 and onwards.
One major call out in the doubling work is Cuttack-Barang section which lies on the Chennai-Howrah trunk route. It witnesses heavy to very heavy traffic. This section is 12 KMs with 1 major bridge and 1 minor bridge in between. The original project started in 2010 but no significant progress was made. This caused major delays as trains had to be stopped at Cuttack station as there was only 1 bridge over river Kathajori. Modi government expedited the process and got it completed in early 2015 after coming to power.
It must be noted that the Angul-Sambalpur line’s electrification was sanctioned in 2003-04 but UPA did nothing in the following 10 years. NDA government has electrified 60 KMs out of 149 KMs in 4.5 years.
New Line Addition
In effect, in the 4.5 years between 2014-18, Odisha got 267 KMs of track doubled, 398 KMs of track electrified and 81 KMs of brand new railway track.
Here is a brief summary of UPA 2009-14 vs NDA 2014-19
See the year of sanction of each project. The entire 81 KMs in Khurda Road-Balangir section is constructed in last 4.5 years under NDA with a pair of trains already running between Khurda Road – Rajasunakhala. Let’s mention some projects here, which carry special significance.
- Paradeep-Haridaspur will go through Kendrapara district, which still doesn’t have a railway line.
- Khurda Road-Balangir will go through Nayagarh and Boudh districts which don’t have railway line.
- Talcher-Bimlagad will bring down the distance between Rourkela and Bhubaneswar to 308 KMs from present 440 KMs
- Angul-Sukinda will connect two massive mineral clusters i.e Coal from Talcher with Iron ore in Sukinda. This is being carried out by a JV between RVNL(Rail Vikash Nigam Ltd), IDCO (Industrial Development Corporation, Odisha), Jindal and Bhusan.
The budgetary fund allocation in this government has also touched record heights. In last year budget Odisha got a record ₹5,102 crores, which is around 5 times of what UPA govt allocated in their last budget.
Of course, the budgetary allocation includes other things among new lines, doubling, electrification, station modernisation, amenities improvement. Odisha has got at least 40+ new trains in last 5 years. Some marquee trains include Humsafar, Antyodaya, Duronto and Sampark Krantis along with other regular trains. Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Jharsuguda stations have got major facelifts.
As per 2016 data, Odisha shares 4.6% of the total National Highways of India, which stands at 4,838 KMs out of 103,613 KMs. The density per 1000 sq KM is 31.1 KM against a national average of 31.5. The density per 1 Lakh population is 11.5 KMs which is better than the national average of 8.6 KMs.
With declaration of state roads as new NHs being done from time to time keeping in view the requirements of connectivity, priority and availability of funds, in his recent visit to Odisha, Union Minister for Highways, Nitin Gadkari announced that Odisha as of date has 9,426 KMs of National Highways, nearly double of what NDA government started with. Though, most of them are still single carriageways with 2 lanes.
Among completed projects, total expenditure by the central government is ~₹6,000 crore. There are a slew of ongoing projects which are slated to finish by 2020.
In most of the ongoing projects, land acquisition is almost complete. Forest clearance is pending only in certain sections but work is going on in full swing. The Chandikhol-Talcher via Duburi NH 53 carries special significance here as it will connect Coal belt (Talcher) – Iron Ore and Chromite (Duburi) – Steel Capital of India (Kalinga Nagar) – port (Paradeep) through a 4 lane road.
Sanctioned and Awarded
These projects have been sanctioned and awarded but work has not started yet due to various reasons like administrative/jurisdiction changes, 90% land acquisition not completed, forest clearance and so on. The Birmitrapur-Barkote section is politically significant as it was promised by PM Modi himself in his pre-election rally. This region has given the sole BJP MP from Odisha among 20 BJD MPs. The local BJP MLA recently resigned from BJP citing non-progress of work on this highway.
So, Odisha has got 294 KMs of 4 laned Highway in the last 5 years while work on other 642 KMs are ongoing which will be opened in next year. Another 368 KMs have been awarded and work may start soon. For a comparative study, Congress in its entire regime of 55 years got ~70 KM of 4 laned roads in Odisha. The NH 16 stretch in Odisha got 4 laned during Vajpayee’s ambitious Golden Quadrilateral scheme. Another 294 KMs got added during Modi’s regime. In fact, UPA itself in a 2013 affidavit admitted that, in the 6 years tenure between 1998-04, NDA government has constructed more roads than all other governments combined in the past 30 years.
This data excludes the 415 KM coastal highway of Odisha envisaged at ₹7,500 crore from Gopalpur to Digha under Bharatmala, 262 km long waterway at a cost of Rs 5000 crore, combining Mahanadi and Brahmani from Karimnagar to Dhamra and Paradip, 93 KMs of Ring Roads around major towns and various flyovers and bridges. The ministry claims that the total expenditure by the centre on regional connectivity in Odisha is pegged at 1 lakh crore.
While we don’t contest CM Shri Naveen Patnaik’s allegation that centre is not doing enough on highways and railways in Odisha, we will urge the Chief Minister to back his claim with data and be specific on what needs to be done which has not been done or not being done.