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Setting up of railway zone at Vizag remains a contentious issue between Modi and Andhra people
Setting up of a new railway zone at Visakhapatnam, for the people of Andhra Pradesh, remains a major contentious issue between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of Andhra Pradesh, who are up in arms against the Centre for ignoring promises made in the Bifurcation Act.

It may be recalled that Andhra Pradesh is the only state without a railway zone in the country. Though Visakhapatnam is having all required infrastructure more than most of other zone headquarters in the country, the Modi government seems to be avoiding taking a decision only for its political interests. As this decision will harm the interests of people of the neighbouring Odisha state where the BJP is keen to win the forthcoming Assembly polls, it said to be intentionally deceiving people of AP on this issue.

On the very same day Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other union ministers were making attempts to pacify the agitating TDP members in Parliament, seeking immediate honouring of all promises made to AP in the Bifurcation Act, a former AP minister Konathala Ramakrishna, who is agitating for railway zone in Visakhapatnam met Railway Minister Piyush Goyal. Ramakrishna stated that the people of state are firm on their demand for a railway zone at Visakhapatnam.

Ramakrishna reminded the minister that as per the AP state reorganization act, 2014 section 93 which reads as: "The Central Government shall take all necessary measures as enumerated in the Thirteenth Schedule for the progress and sustainable development of the successor States within a period of ten years from the appointed day" and to add item no. 8 of Thirteenth schedule which states that "Indian Railways shall, within six months from the appointed day, examine establishing a new railway zone in the successor State of Andhra Pradesh and take an expeditious decision thereon".

Formation of new railway zone with headquarter at Vishakhapatnam is a long pending demand especially in Visakhapatnam region for over a decade. In the last three elections formation of separate railway zone is a major election issue.

Six new zones were created in the year 1996 when Ram Vilas Paswan was the Railway Minister in the erstwhile UF government. In 1998, when the BJP came to power they created the South East Central Railway with headquarters at Bilaspur even prior to the formation of Chhattisgarh state which was the smallest of all zones.

During her tenure as Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee upgraded Kolkata Metro into a zone. Development of Chennai-Visakhapatnam industrial corridor also requires a separate railway zone since railway connectivity as well as developing industrial corridor go hand-in-hand since railways fulfils the need of providing essential transportation networks that acts as an artery for any such industrial corridor.

The present arrangement in two different zones with headquarters in different states namely Telangana and Odisha shall not serve the purpose and shall jeopardize the development of the industrial corridor. In the present residual AP, the largest city, the major port and industrial hub is Visakhapatnam and overall state development which is closely intertwined with railways can't progress to the desired level since Visakhapatnam is in another zone.

With vast coastline and ports like Visakhapatnam, Gangavaram, Kakinada, Krishnapatnam and Machilipatnam and further with upcoming ports like Nizampatnam, Vadarevu, Bhimunipatnam, Kalingapatnam and Durgarajapuram the railways can expect increased traffic from these ports, since ports are hubs of transhipment of bulk goods for which railways shall be a major beneficiary connecting ports with hinterland.

Visakhapatnam and Gangavaram ports in Visakhapatnam city are the future transhipment ports due to its central location on the east coast as well as being the only deepest ports that can handle very large to ultra large vessels (up to 3,00,000 DWT which no port in India can claim).

Further, in Visakhapatnam, deep sea is hardly 1 km away from the coast while in Mumbai, Kandla, Haldia and Paradeep one has to travel more than 100 km off shore. Hence, Visakhapatnam shall hold the key to the future. As of now, ports of AP carry low value bulk products like iron ore, coal, limestone, fertilizers, crude oil, granite, etc that are transported mostly through rail.

Visakhapatnam which has abundant railway land with 800 acres of railway land free from hindrances, the most ideal location for setting up zonal headquarters due to excellent railway infrastructure apart from being hub of economic activities and excellent connectivity by all modes of transport.

However, Ramakrishna dismissed Piyush Goyal's indifferent reply stating that need unanimity with neighbouring states. He asserted that the announcement of railway zone is a political decision and it is not normally based on any sound economic and technical principles. However, the formation of new south coast railway zone has a very sound economic and technical base and should be considered positively. Setting up of south coast zone is a win-win situation for both the region as well as Indian Railways because it will enhance the Indian Railways' earnings immensely because this region is underserved and under tapped despite great potential for freight traffic, he added.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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