Rail work drags on amid militant threats

PTI NONEY, 11th May: 
The Railways is working on a key project that would provide rail connectivity to the capital of land-locked Manipur despite the threat of several militant outfits operating in the area, officials said Friday.
As many as 14 cases of shootings, kidnapping and violence targeting supervisors and engineers working on the Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal rail project have been reported in the last 12 months, resulting in delays.
The rail line is essential as it will connect the western-most boundary of Manipur, Jiribam, adjoining the Cachar district of Assam, to the state capital, Imphal. Delays in the project have also been caused by the difficult terrain.
"Presence of several militant outfits in Manipur is a major security concern to the site engineers in the form of frequent threat calls, attacks, firing and kidnapping for ransom. Engineers and supervisors get threat calls, messages, there is firing in the air.
"Outsiders visiting the area are given armed escorts and advised to move in groups. Just two days ago, an engineer was abducted. It is a real challenge to ensure the safety and security of the work force as well as the assets," said A Saibaba, Chief Engineer Construction, NFR, in-charge of the project.
He said that most of those who are kidnapped are staff of the private contractors and not railway officials.
At the project site, around 1500 security personnel from across security forces, including from Assam Rifles, Manipur Rifles, Indian Reserve Batallion, state police and the Railway Police Force, are present.
The project was sanctioned in 2008 and has a deadline of December 2020 to be made operational.

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