Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Apr.8: Arunachal capital Itanagar was put on the country’s railway map on Monday, with the first passenger train of about 400 commuters arriving at Naharlagun near here.
The train with 10 passengers and two goods compartments, towed by a diesel engine, left Dekargaon at 7a.m. and arrived here at 12.30 p.m., covering a distance of 181 kilometers.
Itanagar thus becomes the second state capital among the eight north-eastern states after Guwahati to be put on the railway map of India.
The train was driven by A.K. Boro and D.J. Boro. The journey including moving on the newly built 20-km Harmuti-Naharlagun railway line.
“It is a great day for Arunachal Pradesh,” said C.D. Sharma, who purchased the first ticket for Naharlagun at the Dekargaon Railway Station for Rs.35.
“I had travelled in the lone bus (Joymoti) for Itanagar from North Lakhimpur in Assam to get down at Doimukh to join as a government school teacher in 1979. The train journey was great, and will be a boon for the state with better, cheaper and faster communication,” he said.
“Shouting ‘Jai Biswakarma’ slogans, people in their traditional attires all along the route in Assam welcomed the train and offered puja while many boarded the train with the railways offering a free ride today,” he added.
Dinesh Sharma, who came from Guwahati by train, got down at Rangapara to board the same train at 6.30 am to Naharlagun, while A Hazarika, a civil secretariat employee, joined them at Titabahar. They were the only three direct passengers. G.C. Das and A.Baruah were the ticket checkers of the train, which also had armed railway police personnel.
Passengers were engaged in shooting videos with their mobile phones as the train arrived. Most of them, including families and groups of young boys and girls, got down smiling and expressed their happiness at the service. Many were busy taking pictures. Many people from the Capital Complex had arrived at the station to be part of the historic event.
Former railway mMinister Ram Villa Paswan after inaugurating the passenger’s reservation system here on May 20, 1997 had announced the Harmuti-Naharlagun railway line, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced train service in his massive package for the state on January 31, 2008.
Informing about the arrival of the train, Chief Minister Nabam Tuki during his road rally at Itanagar on Sunday had announced that Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express would be introduced soon to link Arunachal to national capital Delhi.
The ambitious railway line project, estimated to cost Rs 156 crore (re-estimated at Rs 371.33 crore by the Railway Board on July 7, 2009), had missed its target of December 2011 repeatedly.
The railway engine made its maiden trial run from Harmutty to Naharlagun terminus on January 14 last while a high level team led by Planning Commission Member (North East and Power) BK Chaturvedi had inspected the Harmutty-Naharlagun on January 17 last.
It may be recalled that Chaturvedi, before inspecting the railway track, had said that the NE, particularly Arunachal Pradesh, is an important part of India and is under the special focus of New Delhi, as its development would help other parts of India.
Rajdhani Express would be introduced between Itanagar and the national capital as a policy but in a phased manner, he had assured, adding that railways brings prosperity by boosting trade and commerce wherever it brings connectivity, and that equal benefits would accrue Arunachal Pradesh with quick transportation at reasonable rate.
Though the average rail density of India is 19.13 and the NE is one of the poorest, Assam stands at 31.9 while the ratio of other states (in descending order) is Delhi (138.2) followed by West Bengal (43.4), Punjab (41.6), Mariana (36.1), Bihar (35.9), Uttar Pradesh (35.8) and Tamil Nadir (32.1). By Pradeep Kumar (ANI)