Faced with large-scale opposition to the double-tracking project, the South Western Railways (SWR) Dy General Manager and Chief PRO E Vijaya told The Goan that the project sanctioned cannot be halted and it would be for the Goa government to take a call on it. Here are excerpts from an interview:
TG: People are opposed to the SWR double-tracking in Goa, as can be seen from the large protests late Sunday night. Did the SWR anticipate such protests?
EV: The preparatory work for doubling of tracks is being done on Railway land after obtaining all permissions from district authorities concerned.
The Railways applied for permission for land acquisition for the above project from the Goa government in 2014-15 and the State government had agreed to this in 2016.
Thereafter, land acquisition proceedings were started by the district administration by way of obtaining consents from landowners. About 12.27 hectares of private land is to be acquired for doubling project under South Goa district, of which, consent has already been received for 7.75 hectares of land and 6.19 hectares has already been acquired.
In such circumstances, when 50 percent of land requirement has already been met through the consent of landowners and when the Railways are executing the work on its land, the question of anticipating protests does not arise.
TG: People claim that the Panchayati Raj Act is supreme and the Railways should have taken permission from the panchayats concerned before starting the project. Did the SWR bypass the local panchayat bodies?
EV: To carry work within Railway land, taking separate permission from Panchayats is not the prevailing practice. The question of bypassing local bodies does not arise as road cutting permissions were taken from district officials.
As per Section 11 of Indian Railway Act, the Railway administration does not require permission from the State government as well as from local bodies to execute work on its land.
Moreover, the Panchayati Raj Act is applicable only for land belonging to village panchayats. It is not applicable to private land as well as those belonging to government bodies.
However, before the execution of the work at the locations of level crossings, permission from district authorities was taken for temporary suspension of road traffic.
TG: From the protests, it is clear that people see no benefit of the SWR double-tracking project to Goa. Did the SWR fail to consider the views of the people before embarking on this project?
EV: This doubling project has been sanctioned considering the benefits that it will accrue to the people of Goa.
The Hospet-Vasco-da-Gama doubling project has been sanctioned in the interest of the nation as a whole. On completion of the project, it will be beneficial to the people of Goa also in terms of increased number of passenger trains, improved connectivity to Southern and Northern states of the country, increased number of coaches up to 24 nos, augmentation of passenger amenities at stations, additional track crossing facilities for the public of Goa in the form of additional RUBs and ROBs.
TG: Will the SWR now consider the concerns and objections of the people and abandon the project or will it go ahead with the double-tracking project?
EV: Doubling project will be taken up only after approval from the Goa government. Views of the State government, if any, may be communicated to the Railways. Modifying a sanctioned project is not in the competency of SWR.
Out of 342 kms of doubling sanctioned under the project, 252 kms has already been completed at a cost of about Rs 2,000 crore.
Now, only 90 kms doubling is left for completion, of which 70 kms falls in Goa. There is no objection to doubling on the remaining 20 kms of stretch falling in Karnataka, which will be completed in due course of time. Abandoning any sanctioned project by the ministry is not within the competency of Zonal Railway.