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‘U’ Turn On Wagon Factory

New Delhi: The Union Government once again took a ‘U’ turn on the much-awaited wagon factory at Sitapalli in Ganjam district. Union Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday informed the Parliament that the Centre has no proposal to set up a wagon factory at Sitalapalli in Ganjam district of Odisha.

Giving a written reply to a question of BJD MP Achyutananda Samanta, Mr.Vaishnaw, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Odisha, said, “Wagon factories are set up keeping in view the railways’ overall requirement of the wagons. Existing wagon manufacturing capacity in the country is adequate. At present, there is no proposal to set up a wagon factory at Sitalapalli in Ganjam district of Odisha.”

A prerequisite to setting up a railway coach factory is a sustained demand of coaches in the future. The requirement of coaches vis-à-vis available manufacturing capacity has been reviewed recently and requirement of main line coaches in near future does not justify immediately initiating construction of a new coach factory, the Union Minister further clarified.

Surely, this is going to be a major setback for Odisha and especially, for the people of Ganjam district, who are hoping to see the project as the Ministry of Railway has recently intimated the State Government that the project is back in consideration.

In September this year, the East Coast Railway (ECoR), which had earlier sought cancellation of land allotment, had urged the Revenue and Disaster Management department to hand over the allotted land.

Chief Project Manager of ECoR Anil Prakash has written to the Principal Secretary of Revenue department citing withdrawal of the letter sent to cancel the allotment of 101.6 acre of land.

“Since the project is under review, the letter on cancellation of land allotment is withdrawn. Therefore, kindly arrange to forward the land plan/land schedule. Handing over of land may be expedited as per allotment,” the September 1 letter to the Revenue Department Principal Secretary stated.    

The letter was issued in the wake of the recent visit of Mr.Vaishnaw, who was apprised of delay in implementation of some of the projects announced earlier.

Announced by the then Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in 2011-12, the project was supposed to be implemented in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode and was approved in 2013. But it was delayed due to lack of sincere efforts by the railways.

On its part, the Odisha government had identified 101.6 acre of land near Jagannathpur railway station, 20 km from Berhampur, the Railways had dropped the project in 2018 after sanctioning token money of Rs 1000 in the Railway Budget till 2016. 

No ground work was undertaken despite several letters from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to the successive railway ministers since then.

In 2017, former Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain had replied to Naveen Patnaik citing difficulties in setting up the factory stating that the demand for wagons may not rise till 2024.

As the proposed wagon unit was dropped from the list of new projects, the ECoR in a communication on 11 May this year had asked to cancel the land allotment.

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