Meghalaya’s principal opposition party, the United Democratic Party on Tuesday welcomed the proposed introduction of cargo train entering the state but was averse to the idea of rolling the passenger railway.
“The party would not mind goods train till Byrnihat (a town between Meghalaya-Assam border) but it is averse to the idea of passenger trains connecting Shillong,” UDP General Secretary Paul Lyngdoh said.
On the opposition of passenger trains entering the state, Mr Lyngdoh said that the demographic structure of the State comes first and any form of development should be in sync with the need to maintain the demographic profile of a state. However, the UDP legislator said the border town of Byrnihat can benefit from entry of goods train and become a commercial hub like Dimapur in Nagaland.
“We also have to think in terms of ecology and greenery and we certainly do not favour passenger trains.” The Railway ministry has proposed two railway projects in the state – the 22-km Tetelia-Byrnihat tracks and the 108-km Byrnihat-Shillong line.
The Tetelia-Byrnihat project will be implemented at a cost of Rs 496 crore. However, these projects have faced roadblocks due to strong opposition from different quarters apprehending influx. Several groups, including the Khasi Student’s Union have opposed the railway line in Khasi and Jaintia Hills areas fearing the unseen influx of outsiders in eastern part of Meghalaya.
However, Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said railway connectivity to promote high-end tourism while allaying the fears of influx of outsiders in the state. “Railway lines need not be used only as passenger train to enable commuters who will be just coming in search of opportunities in the state but Meghalaya should be seen as a destination for tourists, who will come and go,” he said.
Dr Sangma also exuded confidence that the comprehensive measure is capable of dealing with the issue of influx.
“The railway connectivity to Shillong can be a game changer in our pursuit to promote the state as the most favored destination,” he stated He said people should take advantage of this railway connectivity to promote high-end tourism.
Moreover, he said the railways would also be utilized to take care of whole market linkages and extra burden on consumers due to lack of railway.