HC asks Centre to reply why Balurghat Rly project halted

BALURGHAT: Calcutta High Court in an order issued on Wednesday directed the Central government to produce an affidavit and sought explanation before the concerned court as to why the much-needed Balurghat-Hili Railway project had been stopped instead of its immediate completion. The verdict came after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition was filed in July this year in this regard.

The petitioner's lawyer Kalyan Kumar Chakraborty said the division bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee had directed the Centre to produce the affidavit and an explanation in the next hearing slated to be held on November 29, also adding the same direction was applicable for the State government as well.

As per the petition, the unfinished rail project had been lying incomplete for about 10 years.

In 2011, the then Rail minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a 29.7-km Railway extension project from Balurghat to Hili and the funds were sanctioned in the next three Union Rail budgets. Nothing has been done so far except building the pillars on Atreyee and Yamuna and 410 acres had been identified for the project.

Fund of Rs 100 crore was allocated in the 2011 Railway budget to build concrete pillars on Atreyee and Yamuna rivers. The Railway department had started identifying land for the much-needed Rail project in South Dinajpur.

In 2016, a fund of Rs 200 crore was allocated by the Centre to keep the project on. In 2017, the fund was increased to Rs 400 crore to expedite the project. Surprisingly, after 2017 the Central government had apparently lost interest in the project.

The petitioner, Birendranath Mahato said: "There will be a boom in the overall development in the region if the project is completed. The local youths can be absorbed in jobs too. The PIL petition was filed at the High Court so that the initiative is taken up by the Railway authority to complete the project as early as possible. The local sentiment is also attached with the project."

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