Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

Our cover story this month is on one of the most controversial subject of Byrnihat Rail Projects, which is originating from Teteliya in Assam, covering a total distance of 20.5 kms only. The powerful NGOs from Meghalaya has opposed the railway project on the ground that it will encourage influx. They want before this railway line is set to address the issue of influx and its exit and entry point be identified and put into operation. Consequence to this agitation a number of petrol bombs were thrown on the non-tribals of Shillong. They have no role to play in the entire process, whether there should be a railway line or not.

All over the world Government gives importance to infrastructure order as it helps in economic growth, creates job and reduces the cost of commodities and in the process the overall quality of life of the people of the region improves. It may be worth noting that the railway has reached Meghalaya connecting the Garo Hills upto Mendipathar where Chief Minister Mukul Sangma himself agreed that it has brought a change in the region and the fear of influx is uncalled for.

Perhaps the authorities that are implementing the Railway Project should have an awareness campaign as to the impact of Railway Line in the region. When the area is sensitive then the approach must be strategic. The North Eastern Frontier Railways should have interacted with the NGOs in a greater depth and removed their doubts and fear. Perhaps, this has not been done. We from Eastern Panorama contacted many officials of NF railways to give their point of view but none responded.

In a difficult terrain like Himalayas, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was the first and is still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway. Opened in 1881, its design applies bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty.

The construction of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 46-km long metre-gauge single-track railway in Tamil Nadu State was first proposed in 1854, but due to the difficulty of the mountainous location the work only started in 1891 and was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 m to 2,203 m, represented the latest technology of the time.

Looking around the most significant railway link around the globe, the Tren a las Nubes (Train to/of the Clouds) is a touristic train service in Salta Province, Argentina. The service runs along the eastern part of the C-14 line of the Ferrocarril General Manuel Belgrano, connecting the Argentine Northwest with the Chilean border in the Andes mountain range. At over 4,220 meters (13,850 ft) above mean sea level, it’s the third highest railway in the world. Originally built for economic and social reasons, it is now primarily a tourist attraction as a heritage railway.

All these railways are still fully operational improving the economic status of the country. If such a marvellous railway track is being connected through such a difficult terrain with proper planning, making it one of the most popular tourist destination then, I think Shillong people should also give a thought to it again.

To me the Railway Project if implemented upto Shillong, will only be for the good of the people of the region. However, whatever the indigenous people, NGOs, elders and the pressure groups decide is good for them, is actually good for them.

                                                                               Dr. K.K Jhunjhunwala