Agartala, Feb 26 (IANS) Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has largely ignored the northeast in his maiden rail budget and focussed only on the mainland states, a minister in Tripura's Left Front government said here Tuesday.
"Like in previous years, the infrastructure and industry-starved northeastern region was again ignored in the railway budget for fiscal 2013-14," Transport Minister Manik Dey said.
"People of Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and southern Assam have long been seeking conversion of the metre gauge track to broad gauge beyond Lumding in southern Assam. If Lumding-Badarpur section is not converted, the railway track up to Agartala and also in Manipur and Mizoram cannot be converted to broad gauge," Dey told reporters.
The minister said the gauge conversion work had started in 1996 beyond Lumding, but in 17 years, even 35 percent of the work is yet to be completed.
"The prime ministers of India and Bangladesh signed an agreement in January 2010 for linking Agartala railway station with the Akhaurah railway station in Bangladesh by setting up only 15-km new railway track so that a train could be introduced from Agartala to Kolkata via Bangladesh, but there is no mention of it in the railway budget," Dey said.
Tripura capital Agartala is the newest station of the Indian Railways, and came up on the country's rail map in October 2008.
Bangladesh operates regular train services along the border on its side up to Akhaurah and various other places, just opposite several sub-divisional towns in Tripura.
The minister said that the railway budget also did talk about the implementation of the five national railway projects in the northeast, the work on which was being carried out very slowly due to paucity of funds and other problems.
Bansal in his budget speech in parliament said that for the first time the state of Arunachal Pradesh has been brought into the rail network and the railways will commission the Harmuti-Naharlagun line this year.
"The works on the new line railway project to connect the state of Manipur are in full swing," the railway minister said, adding that the gauge conversion work on Lumding-Silchar and Rangia-Murkongselek were on fast track.
Bansal announced that 25 skill development centres would be set up across the country to engage youths in railway related trades. Of the 25 centers, four would be set up in northeast - Agartala (Tripura), Dimapur (Nagaland), Lumding (Assam) and Imphal (Manipur).