Shillong, March 24: Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said on Friday that the state government is trying to address the issue of influx to pave the way for the implementation of railway projects in the state.
Sangma told reporters that the people of the state are not against the railway, but the issue is influx and the protection of the indigenous people.
“Everybody understands the importance of a railway, and people are not against that, and hence, that is why we are engaging with the organizations to understand and to find out options on how we could achieve a goal of ensuring that we are able to protect and have provisions for influx yet at the same time also have the railways so that the economy of the state and the country can benefit,” he said.
It may be mentioned that the Centre 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, including pressure groups apprehending influx.
When asked, the chief minister admitted that the inner line permit (ILP) is one of the ways to address the apprehension of influx and said that is why an official resolution was passed by the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly urging the Centre to implement ILP.
“But then ILP is not the only way; it is one of the ways. So if we get ILP, then that will be great. If not, how do we move forward? What are the other options? So all these aspects have been discussed because, as I said, the crux of the matter is not that people are against the railway, it is not that people are saying that it has to be ILP, it is not that people are saying that it has to be x, y, z – the issue is influx and the protection of our identity,” he said.
On the status of the proposed railway projects, Sangma informed that the government is yet to receive the No-objection certificate (NOC) from the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC).
“I have taken up with the Minister for Railway, Government of India, and urged that these are matters that we need to consult and take our stakeholders into confidence, and hence, we require time to discuss matters with them, and only once we are able to resolve and come to some kind of understanding, would we want to go ahead with things. So that is the status as of now,” he said.
Sangma said the government is engaging with different stakeholders if goods train can be introduced as it will help the state’s economy, farmers, and everybody.
“We are discussing as I said; we are very clear on our stand that we would like to engage with everybody, discuss this matter, and take it forward in an amicable way,” he added.
The chief minister also informed that during his last visit to New Delhi, the minister has expressed that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is deeply concerned and he would like to see all the capitals of the states connected with railway lines in the larger interest of the nation in terms of ensuring that the overall economy prosper.
“Obviously, the prime minister has good intentions while he intends to push our state and the railway ministry to achieve this. But while that happens, every state has its own complications, and obviously, in our state, railway has been an issue where a lot of different organizations and also different traditional heads have raised concerns regarding issues of influx, and hence, we need to understand that though the importance of railway is understood, it is also important to carry our people along and build up the confidence in them and which is what I had expressed to the minister and the minister understood and he said we will go ahead with all of these things only when we are able to carry everybody along,” he said.