A recent visit of GTA Chairman to Sikkim and meeting with Chief Minister Pawan Chamling was a big buzz as many queried about the outcome of meeting.
A Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha (GJMM) leader Binoy Tamang, who is also the chairman of the Board of Administrators running the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), has agreed to issue a no-objection certificate (NOC) to the Sevoke- Rangpo railway link after a meeting he held with Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling in Gangtok on 27 March.
Asked to comment while he spoke to reporters in Siliguri last night, Mr Tamang said: “We have three demands in the interest of the Hill people and for the protection of environment in the seismic zone. Railway authorities have sent proposals in response to our demands. We are happy with the proposals.
A seven-member team of top railway officials will come to the GTA office around 11 am on 4 April. After thorough discussions on the matter, we will issue the NOC on behalf of the GTA, following requests from Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling (in the meeting on 27 March).”
“The relations between the two states have improved after a meeting between Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling,” he added.
According to him, the then railway minister George Fernandes had taken initiatives to include Sikkim in the country’s railway map. The objective was to reach Nathu- La, the Indo-China border, quickly in case of any “external threat.”
After that, the present Bengal chief minister and the then railway minister, Mamata Banerjee, took fresh initiatives for its execution eight years ago. “There was this issue of NOC for execution of the project that time. But I don’t know the problem and reasons behind objections to the project eight years ago. Now we have decided to issue the NOC for the execution of the project because the estimated cost of the plan was Rs 1,339 crore and now it has gone up to Rs 4,013 crore. If the project is stalled due to objections, the estimated cost of the project will escalate further,” Mr Tamang said.
Asked to comment on the reasons behind non-availability of land for the project, the GTA Chairman told this correspondent: “The required land belong to the forest department, wildlife and the GTA. The railway ministry can manage permission from the Centre for execution of the project through reserved forests. The rail has got an NOC from the state. Now it needs to get the same from the GTA.”
On the GTA’s pre-conditions, he said: “We have asked railway authorities not to use explosives while digging tunnels in landslides prone areas, which fall under the seismic zone-III. We have also requested the use of drill machines for the creation of the 33-km tunnel in the GTA’s jurisdiction.”
“The tunnel will be constructed under the cinchona plantation. We had to set the pre-conditions in order to protect the environment and the cinchona plantations. Similarly, protection of the environment in Sittong, during construction of the tunnel, is imperative. There will be 13 bridges in the project,” he added.
We have also asked the railway authorities to carry out community development programmes for people who will be affected by the construction of the 43-km railway tracks.
“We are happy with the railway proposals, which were sent to the GTA recently. They have accepted our demand for setting up four railway stations at Kalijhora, Rambhi, Teesta and Melli. Of them, only one–Teesta railway station–will be set up underground. We will discuss all this on 4 April,” he added.