Jiri-Imphal rail proj struggles to meet deadline

IMPHAL, 28th Oct: On account of frequent disruptions caused to work agencies of the Imphal-Jiribam rail-line project, the tentative deadline of year 2020 set for completion of the project is unlikely to be realistic.
Contrary to the project works dragging on for an unprecedented period of time – with interferences by activists of unlawful organisations said to be one of the reasons for loss of time and work schedules thrown out of gear, China and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to conduct feasibility study of a railway linking Muse, a border town in Myanmar's north-eastern Shan state, with Mandalay, the country's second largest city in the north.
The MoU, reportedly signed on October 23 assumes significance in Manipur’s context as the Jiri-Imphal rail-line project also envisions extension up to Moreh, the last town on Indian side of the international border.
According to an official associated with the Jiri-Imphal project, frequent incidents of abduction of work agency officials and workers by armed organisations and unknown miscreants resorting to threat and firing intended to intimidate contractors have been affecting acceleration of the project works.
The project officials are also compelled to cease construction activities on account of bandh/strike called in the project zones, the source said and recounted that last year alone recorded 14 incidents of firing at railway workers, abduction and other acts of arson/violence.
While disclosing that there has been no respite for the work agencies as unknown persons continue to give threat calls to engineering officials and attempt to abduct for ransom consequently affecting morale and progress of the project, the source maintained that those who are at the receiving end of unlawful activities are mostly private contractors and their labourers.
These contractors feel highly insecure to conduct spot inspection at the worksite as and when adequate security cover could not be ensured.
Regardless of around 1500 personnel of Assam Rifles, Manipur Rifles, India Reserve Battalion and Railway Police Force deployed and stationed at vulnerable zones, representatives of work agencies as well as engineers do not feel free to carry out their respective tasks, the source disclosed.
Though the rail project sanctioned in 2004 was revised for for completion by 2020, the target might be rescheduled yet again in case project authorities could not be guaranteed adequate security protection, the source said.
It may be mentioned that the plan to extend the Jiri-Imphal project up to Moreh was announced in 2016 when the then union railway minister Suresh Prabhu laid the foundation stone for construction of a railway station building in an area under Konthoujam assembly constituency. It was estimated that the extension of the project might cost Rs 9000 crore.
Meanwhile, the China-Myanmar MoU inked between China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group Co. Ltd and state-run Myanma Railways is informed to be for conduct of feasibility study environmental and social impact assessment within two years.
The project is expected to reduce transportation cost, contribute to socio-economic development while conforming to environmental conservation. Agency reports stated that the railway project, a part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, is economically and strategically important, and will contribute to the two countries’ long-term paukphaw (fraternal) friendship. The railway project will inject new energy into the development of China’s Belt and Road initiative and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor apart from contributing to Myanmar’s economic development and peace and stability of northern Myanmar. The railway extends 431 km with a designed speed of 160 km per hour. It will run through important towns in the country’s north and some economic hubs.

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