Berhampur: The Centre did a U-turn Wednesday over the proposed setting up of a wagon construction factory at Sitapalli in Ganjam district with Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw informing in the Lok Sabha that there is no such plan.
Replying to a question by Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Achyutananda Samanta, the minister said that factories are set up keeping in mind the overall demand for wagons for the Railways and as of now there is no such requirement.
“The existing wagon manufacturing capacity in India is adequate. At present, there is no proposal to set up a wagon factory at Sitapalli in Ganjam district of Odisha,” the minister said.
Vaishnaw also said that requirement of coaches via-a-vis available manufacturing capacity has been reviewed recently.
Requirement of main line coaches in the near future also does not justify immediately the construction of a new coach factory.
Significantly, the project at Sitapalli was announced by the then Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in 2011-12 and was supposed to be implemented in PPP mode.
However, the project was shelved in 2017 as the ministry cited lack of demand for wagons. However, following Vaishnaw’s visit to Odisha, the ministry decided to review the decade-old project in September this year.
The decision was taken after different organisations reiterated their demand for setting up the factory during Vaishnaw’s visit to Berhampur in September.
East Coast Railway had written a letter to the Revenue and Disaster Management department to expedite handing over the land for wagon project.
A total of 101.6 acres land had also been identified for the project near Jagannathpur railway station, around 20 km from Berhampur.
However, in May, the Railways had asked the state government to cancel allotment of land. But after the minister’s visit it changed its stance.
“Since the project is under review, the letter on cancellation of land allotment is withdrawn. Therefore, kindly arrange to forward the land schedule. Handing over of land may be expedited,” a letter to the Revenue Department from East Coast Railway stated.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had also written several letters to successive Railway Ministers since the launching of the project.
Vaishnaw’s latest declaration certainly will come as a huge jolt to the state as the project would have created employment opportunities both directly and indirectly.