New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Even after 37 years of joining the Indian union, Sikkim is yet to be connected to the rest of the country by rail, Sikkim Democratic Front MP P.D. Rai said Friday.
"Even after 37 years of joining the Indian Union, Sikkim is yet to be connected to the rest of the country by rail," Rai said in his speech in the Lok Sabha during a debate on the railway budget 2013-14.
The parliament member also supported the rail budget.
Noting that tourism was one of the most important service industries for the north-eastern state, Rai said rail link was crucial to maintain the growth momentum.
"The rail minister (Pawan Kumar Bansal) has announced that for the first time, Arunachal Pradesh will be brought into the rail network. It will be helpful if he can make a similar announcement for Sikkim in his next budget speech," said Rai.
He noted that Sikkim shares over 3,000 km of Himalayan border with China, which will soon bring a railway line to India border-head at Nathu-La.
"Connecting Sikkim with the Indian rail network is not only important for the state's economy, but also strategically important for the country," he said.
Rai urged the minister to expedite work on the rail-link from Sevoke in North Bengal to Rangpo in Sikkim commissioned in 2010 saying it should be declared a project of national importance.
Noting that railway projects in the mountains must be sensitive to the environment, Rai said the delicate balance of nature must be maintained.
"The mountains present a new set of challenges for constructing rail infrastructure and a specialised body should be entrusted with their management. A special mountain unit be created within the railway ministry," he said adding "this must be further strengthened by linking it to research institutions like the IITs or NITs."