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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh ....... now on Indian Railway map

‘Rail Sneham’ (Temporary friendship) – nothing to do with the teleserial of K Balachandar that was watched by so many in the 1980s…. the title song, if I am right was sung by Chitra. Perhaps one perceptible difference is when you travel by air, the person next to you, would not even look at you …. While in train, most often, co-passengers become so friendly that they exchange their food, talk among themselves and part as friends (until they are forgotten soon) ….. a friend of mine likes trains so much that he would read ‘Railway Time Table’ just as we would read any other novel…..

Coromandel;  Nilgiri; Ganga Kaveri; Lal Bagh; Satya Sai Prasanthi Nilayam; Andaman; Pinakini; Dehradun; Vasco; Yeswantpur; Haldia …… no prizes for guessing what would group them …. Names of some of the 50 trains that originate from Chennai Central + there are dozen or more trains that pass through Chennai Central…. In such a backdrop a train traversing simple 180 km in 5h 30M should not be making news ~ yet it did…..

Heard of ‘Naharlagun’ …. .. read it to be a picturesque town situated in the foothills of Himalayas in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, 10 km the capital city of Itanagar. Surrounded by mountains, Naharlagun is a small town which sees annual long monsoon rains. 

It is the train to this place with 19 halts that made news…. a simple Passenger train at that – originating from Dekargaon in Assam, passing through – Bindukuri; Rangapara North; Balipara; Nizchatia; Monabari; Bedetti; Brahmajan; Dubia; Uttarkathani, Tipling, Harmuti, Gumto – destination Naharlagun…..   On Monday, a train chugged into Naharlagun for the first time in Arunachal Pradesh's history, making Itanagar, the second state capital among the eight north eastern states after Guwahati to be put on the railway map of India. The train, with 10 passengers and two goods compartments, towed by a diesel engine, left Dekargaon in Assam at 7am and arrived at Naharlagun at 12.30 pm, covering a distance of 181 km.  An elated resident is quoted as saying, "We used to see trains moving in neighbouring Assam and always wanted to see a train in our state as it faces a huge connectivity problem. See, several of us have studied and worked in different metros of India and at times missed having a train connection to our state."

That passenger train is special because it puts Arunachal’s capital is finally on India’s rail map. Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, was finally brought on to the railway map of India, as the first passenger train arrived at the Naharlagun railway station nearby, from Dekargaon in Assam. This train service had been announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his package for the state in January 2008 and had missed its December 2011 deadline. Itanagar is now the second state capital in the Northeast to be connected by railroad. In time, the Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express services will be extended to link Arunachal with the national capital. The railroad will now meet two imperatives — the larger need to enhance the Northeast’s connectivity, and the urgency to upgrade India’s border infrastructure. The necessity of better rail and road links was underlined by Manipur’s protracted blockades of 2010-11, which cut off a state that sits at the ends of NH 39 and NH 53. On the other hand, Arunachal shares a 1,000 km border with China that Beijing can reach faster than Delhi.

Reports state that  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 on the first day.  Train no.  15696 Agartala Lumding MG Express covers a distance of 408 km in 19 hours connecting Agartala in West Tripura with Lumding city in Nagaon Dist of Assam.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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