Agartala, July 3 (IANS) The broad gauge lifeline of northeastern states is in danger and it's because of the loose soil beneath the railway track. So engineers from Austria and Germany are now working hard to find a solution even as the Northeast Frontier Railway has decided to divert parts of the track in Dima Hasao district of southern Assam.
The track that traverses southern Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura was converted from metre gauge to broad gauge last year. However, within weeks train services had to be suspended -- first because of rain and landslides, and then due to loose soil beneath the railway track.
"The railway track in Migrendisa in southern Assam was badly damaged due to incessant rain and landslides. After the debris was cleared train services resumed, but because of the loose soil the track got curved," Northeast Frontier Railways' Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma told IANS.
"Before laying the new railway track, profiling of the area, soil testing and other technical matters were checked by various agencies, including the Research Development and Standard Organisation under the Railway Ministry," Sharma reasoned.
So what is the way forward?
"Northeast Frontier Railways has decided to divert about 200 metres of the track near Migrendisa. Work is expected to get completed, subject to favourable weather condition," Sharma said.
NFR Chief Administrative Officer Ajit Pandit said: "We have roped in several engineers from Austria, Germany as well as India to use their expertise at the affected spots. Our workers and engineers are working round-the-clock to restore rail service."
However, voices of discontent are rising in the area.
All-Barak Youth Students Association (ABYSA) has demanded a CBI probe alleging irregularities in the laying of the railway track.
"After spending Rs 5,000 crore and waiting for two decades, train service on the broad gauge was inaugurated in November. But within weeks a major fault developed," ABYSA Chief Convener Baharul Islam Barbhuiya said, adding that the soil testing report should be made public. He also alleged that poor construction materials were used while laying the railway track.
The outfit has written to the railway ministry's vigilance adviser Sunil Mathur, explaining the alleged irregularities in laying of the railway track.
Recently a high-level NFR team led by General Manager H.K. Jaggi visited the site where tracks have developed fault to assess the restoration work and diversion of the route.
The lone railway line from Guwahati passes through Lumding in Nagaon district in central Assam and southern Assam, connecting Agartala and parts of Manipur and Mizoram with the rest of India.
The Guwahati-Silchar railway route is the lifeline for southern Assam comprising Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dima Hasao districts, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. The region is dependent on this railway route for supply of food grain, fertiliser, petroleum products, construction materials and other commodities.
Gauge conversion for Lumding-Silchar and Badarpur-Agartala route was sanctioned in 1996.
It was declared a national project in 2004, thereby ensuring uninterrupted funding from the central government. However, the project was hit by insurgency between 2006 and 2009, and work resumed after that.
The Silchar-Jiribam (52 km) in Manipur and Silchar-Bhairabi (120 km) in Mizoram gauge conversion projects are part of the Lumding-Silchar line.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)