Posted: Friday, 8th August, 2014

NEW DELHI/SHILLONG: A new passenger train will run between Guwahati and Mendipathar shortly with the commissioning of Dudhnoi-Mendipathar line.

This was announced by Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda while presenting his maiden rail budget in Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The budget provides higher funds for ongoing projects in North East, including 11 national projects. Rs 5,116 crore earmarked for projects in North East, which is 54 per cent higher than the previous year.

With a higher allocation the Minister hoped that Dudhnoi-Mendipathar new line, Lumding-Badarpur-silcher gauge conversion, Harmmuti-Murkongselke and Balipara-Bhalukpong sections will soon get commissioned.

However, the budget is silent on Lanka-Sutnga and Chandrapur- Shillong projects.

Meanwhile, the Minister intimated Shillong MP Vicnent H Pala that both these projects would be taken up once the ongoing project in the state is completed.

“Survey has been done in case of the projects and the former one is considered as “national project,” he told the former Union Minister when he met him.

Gowda also pointed out that the priority of the present Government is to finish the ongoing projects and then take up new ones, Pala told The Shillong Times.

“The NE region will be benefitted by the planned eco-tourism and education tourism in the region too,” he said.

Meanwhile, with Sadananda Gowda announcing the first passenger train between Guwahati and Mendipathar in North Garo Hills region, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma hoped that more rail connectivity would come to the State.

“The State has huge potentials for railway tourism to cater to only high end tourists. I am hopeful that we will be able to explore on this possibility,” Sangma said while reacting to the NDA government’s maiden rail budget on Tuesday.

The Chief Minister also informed that a study in this aspect was underway to explore the possibility of railway tourism as a means to promote the State further.

Terming it as red letter day for the people of Garo Hills in particular and the state as a whole, he lauded the people of Mendiapthar area for agreeing to part with their land for the Dudhnoi-Mendipathar railway line.

“I am happy to learn that there are some people who generously gave their land even though they had not received compensation yet,” Sangma said.

The Chief Minister said the state government would soon take up with the railway ministry to connect the state capital Shillong with rail network.

He said the railways would change the socio-economic landscape of the state and would benefit everyone by providing employment to youths and giving better markets to farmers.

Sangma said the facility has generated new hope for the people.

Meanwhile, in February this year a patch of railway line was connected between Dudhnoi in Goalpara district of Assam and Mendhipathar in North Garo Hills- a total distance of 19.47 km.

A railway station has been built and the train service was due to run from April this year, but was delayed because of the general elections.

7 new trains announced for northeast: Railway minister announced a premium train — Kamakhya-Bengaluru Premium Express — and an AC weekly express train between Naharlagun-New Delhi will be introduced in the current fiscal.

Kamakhya station is within Guwahati city while Naharlagun is 12km away from Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar. Two daily intercity express trains — Guwahati-Naharlagun and Guwahati-Murkongselek–will be introduced during 2014-15, Gowda announced while presenting the Railway Budget in Parliament.

Kamakhya will also be connected with Katra in Jammu & Kashmir with a weekly express train.

Two passenger trains have also been offered for the northeastern region. They are Guwahati-Mendipathar passenger (daily) and Rangapara North-Rangiya passenger (daily). The railway minister said there are 23 projects underway in the northeast, of which 11 are national projects. (With inputs from PTI)

Posted: Friday, 8th August, 2014

New Delhi: Congress leaders from Meghalaya on Thursday met President Pranab Mukherjee here to seek his immediate intervention over the NGT’s ban on rat-hole coal mining in the state.

“The ban on coal mining in Meghalaya by the National Green Tribunal has completely devastated the traditional and customary mining activities of the tribals in that State,” the leaders said in the memorandum submitted in this regard to the President .

The memorandum was presented by Shillong MP Vincent H Pala, MPCC president DD Lapang, State Cabinet Ministers- Prestone Tynsong, H D R Lyngdoh and former Speaker M M Danggo in the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

“The President gave us a patient hearing and assured us to look into the matter,” Pala told The Shillong Times after the meeting.

The leaders urged the President to invoke 12A (b) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution so that application of Central laws relating to mining can be rescinded through a Presidential notification. This will enable the state government to regulate mining activities in accordance with Meghalaya Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012.

The paragraph 12 (A) relates to application of Acts of Parliament and of the Legislature of the State of Meghalaya to autonomous districts and autonomous regions in the State of Meghalaya. The paragraph 12A(b) deals with President’s power to exempt application of any Union law to an autonomous district or an autonomous region in the State of Meghalaya.

On Friday, the tribunal upheld its ban on coal mining in Meghalaya, contending that right to life was far more significant than economic interest and the latter cannot be allowed to gain preference.

“The ban has crippled the lives of lakhs of tribal people in Meghalaya, but has also thrown out of gear large segments of migrant population, who worked in these mines. Some families have even started selling their children due to distress,” the memorandum said.

“The leaders also pointed out that the Supreme Court had banned timber in 1986 and now coal mining has also been banned. The continuous ban on activities dependent upon natural resources in the North Region has caused serious economic destitution amongst the tribals in the region thereby aggravating the region’s underdevelopment,” they said.

The only way to protect the traditional and customary economic engagements of the tribals of Meghalaya is to have recourse to paragraph 12A(b) of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, the memorandum stressed.

The NGT has banned coal mining because a case was presented before the tribunal by the All Dimasa Students’ Union and the Dima Hasao District Committee that coal mines in Jaintia Hills is polluting River Kopili with acidic discharge.