A CASE FOR CREATING RAILWAY ZONE AT VISAKHAPATNAM


Vizag Rly.Station


HISTORY OF WALTAIR DIVISION

Waltair Division owes its origin to the erstwhile state-owned East Coast Railway, which came into existence in the year 1893 with the construction of the Cuttack-Khurda Road-Puri line covering a distance of 96 Kms and its subsequent link up along the East Coast upto Vijayawada - junction point of Southern Maratha Railway and Nizam's Guaranteed State Railway. As a result, a total stretch of 1280 Kms. of East Coast Railway covering the entire coastal stretch of Cuttack - Khurda - Road - Puri - Palasa - Vizianagaram-Visakhapatna - Rajahmundry-Vijayawada was opened for traffic between 1893 to 1896. Soon after, due to a change in the policy of the British Government, the Bengal Nagpur Railway, popularly known as the B.N.R, took over the northern section of East Coast Railway from Vizianagaram to Cuttack including the Branch Line of Puri by 23-01-1902.

Track works started at Visakhapatnam, which is on the main line between Madras and Calcutta during the years 1891-92. Traffic between Vijayawada and Cuttack started on 21.8.1893. Visakhapatnam Railway Station (VZT) then was at old city by the side of Laxmi Talkies, which was completely closed after September 1996. Presently, it is used as Container Yard.

No sooner was the development of Visakhapatnam as a major port sanctioned by the Secretary of State in 1924, than, the Railway Board on behalf of the Government of India appointed the Agent of B.N.R. as the Administrative Officer for developing the Vizag Port. The same was completed and then opened to Ocean Traffic on 07-10-1933. Thereafter, Waltair got its prominence as an important terminal junction point in handling the cargo in and out of Vizag Port on rail routes to the hinterland.

Waltair continued to be under the management control of B.N.R. till 14-04-1952, and then it became part of the Eastern Railway at the time of the re-grouping of the Indian Railways. The merger of B.N.R. into Eastern Railway, however, did not last long and on 01-08-1955 South Eastern Railway emerged, constituting the old B.N.R. lines and thus maintaining the tradition and favourite identity of B.N.R.

The other lines/branch lines falling under the present jurisdiction of Waltair Division came into existence in the following sequence

Branch Lines Years
Naupada-Gunupur Line of the erstwhile Parlakimidi Light Railway 1900-1931
R-V Line of the erstwhile Raipur-Vizianagaram Railway. 1905-1931
Bobbili-Salur Branch Line 1913
Kottavalasa-Kirandul (K-K Line) 1966-1967
Koraput-Rayagada (K-R Line) 1995-1996

As can be seen from the statistics published by Eco Railway in their web site, the main line between Cuttack and Visakhapatnam was laid during the period in between 1893 and 1896 i.e, 114 years back. Kottavalasa – Kirandul (K – K Line) was laid during 1966-67 with Japanese financial aid for the sole purpose of transporting iron ore for exporting it to Japan; and the Koraput – Rayagada was laid during 1995 -96, which caters to the transport needs of the people of a region in Orissa, not for the people of coastal Andhra. Naupada – Gunupur, Raipur – Vizianagram and Bobbi – Salur lines were laid nearly a century back, with no new railway tracks built keeping a full century blank for Visakhapatnam and for the places in Waltair Railway Division without any development. It shows the gross apathy and neglect meted out to the North Coastal Andhra either by earlier South Eastern Railway or the present Eco Railway.

With effect from 1st April 2003 Waltair Division became a part of the newly formed East Coast Railway.

WALTAIR DIVISION AT A GLANCE

Waltair Division is one of the important divisions in East Coast Railway. Its jurisdiction extends over a length of 1,052 route kms., covering three states viz., Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.

The four main arteries and diagonals of the Division are:

Duvvada-Visakhapatnam-Palasa (B.G. - Double) 213 Route Km
Vizianagaram-Singapurroad (B.G. - Double) 137 Route Km
Kottavalasa-Kirandul (K-K Line - B.G. - Single) 446 Route Km
Koraput-Rayagada (B.G. - Single) 164 Route Km
Kottavalasa-Simhachalam 22 Route Km
Bobbili - Salur 18 Route Km
Misc. Good routes 52 Km
Total 1052 Km


In addition, there was a erstwhile popular Narrow Gauge (NG) line, with a stretch of 91 kms., extending from Naupada (A.P) to Gunupur (Orissa) which is under gauge conversion to broad gauge.

Is it a favour to Waltair Division ?

The divisional headquarters is situated at Visakhapatnam - the City of Destiny,

Destined to lag behind even the most insignificant Railway Divisions in the country in general and in Eco Railway in particular.

which is quite well known for its scenic hills, sea-shores, industries etc. During last two decades of rapid industrialization in and around the Port city of Vizag, Waltair Division has all along been fulfilling the ever-increasing transportation needs of this greater industrial city.

Since Duvvada is in Greater Visakhapatnam area, and to ease congestion in Visakhapatnam Station, a number of trains are diverted to Duvvada, they say.

Waltair Division is a major freight carrier for important Public Sectors like :-

Visakhapatnam Port Trust (V.P.T.)
Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (R.I.N.L.)
National Mineral Development Corporation (N.M.D.C.)
National Aluminium Company (N.A.L.C.O.)
Indian Oil Corporation (I.O.C.)
Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (B.P.C.L.)
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (H.P.C.L.)

Several industries including M/s NMDC, VSPS, ESSAR, NALCO, VIKRAM ISPAT, COROMANDEL FERTILIZER, J.K. PAPER MILLS, MAA Mahamaya, CONCAST, NCS Sugars, Varalaxmi sugars, Hindustan Zinc, Seva Paper Mill, BALCO, VEDANTA etc., are also covered under freight operations.

World class Health Care Hospitals like VIMS, Appolo, Seven Hills, Care Hospital, LV Prasad Eye Care Insititute, Max Vision Eye Care Hospital, Visakha Eya Care Hospital, KGH and several Corporate Hospitals; IT Centers with international recognition like Wipro, Satyam, HSBC Call centre, Software Development Centers, a number of world-class educational institutions in the public as well as private sectors, a number of Tourist spots; and several business establishments are in Vizag and as the biggest City in between Kolkatta and Chennai on the East Coast of the Country, rail users and daily commuters have increased in numbers. People from Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh visit Visakhapatnam in large numbers for their educational, medical, social and business purposes. It is the second largest City in Andhra Pradesh and it is a hub of activity even for the people of the neighbouring districts.

To meet the aspirations and demands of passengers, the division handles 36 pairs of Mail / Express trains in all and 14 pairs of passenger trains including 2 Diesel Multiple Units (DMU), which run between Palasa and Tuni (via. Visakhapatnam) and Visakhapatnam-Rayagada.

Earnings (Rs in Crores)

Year Goods Earnings Passenger Earnings Other Coaching Sundry Earnings Grosss Earnings
2003-2004 1381.29 126.62 13,65 9.76 1531.32
2004-2005 1572.36 134,18 10.61 12.19 1729.34
2005-2006 1963.03 141.22 14.72 9.14 2128.11
2006-2007 2125.83 163.25 15.29 7.65 2312.02
2007-2008 2379.50 195.96 9.79 11.67 2596.92
2008-2009 2635.35 207.77 19.16 15.56 2877.84
2009-2010 3219.10 232.15 21.36 10.71 3483.32
2010-2011 … … … … 4143.00


The Division posted a gross earnings of Rs.4143 crores in 2010 – 11, which is 19% higher than in the previous year. While the total earnings of East Coast Railway Zone is Rs.8144 crores, Waltair Division has achieved the distinction of earning Rs.4143, which accounts for a whooping 50.87% of the entire Eco Railway Zone.

Well said about revenue earning, but what about development of the Division with new lines, additional quota of seats/berths, passenger amenities and redesigning Visakhapatnam Station in Madras Central model?

OUR PERCEPTION

One can observe from the above statistics published by the Eco Railway that Waltair (Visakhapatnam) Division has been contributing (with whooping earnings Its earnings are more than many of the Divisions in the Country, and definitely, more than the earning of any of the Divisions/Regions under Eco Railway. These earnings are diverted for development purposes of other regions in the Country and other Divisions of Eco Railway, relegating the North Coastal Region to the lower than the lowest option.

Ample proof for this attitude is that not even an inch of new railway line was laid after Independence. The main line between Cuttack and Visakhapatnam was laid during the period in between 1893 and 1896 i.e, 114 years back. Naupada – Gunupur, Raipur – Vizianagram and Bobbi – Salur lines were laid nearly 2 centuries back

In 2003, when new zones were formed, Waltair division spread over 1051 km was made part of East Coast Railway. Diversion of important trains from Visakhapatnam to Bhubaneswar, drastically reducing the reservation quota for the local people of this region for trains like Visakha Express from Secunderabad and Prashanthi Express from Bangalore, resulted in a feeling of alienation. Ironically, the earlier quota of passenger reservation in trains like Mail, Coromondel and other Express Trains emanating from Howrah and Bhubaneswar have been drastically reduced (it is understood that Berhampur and Khurda are allotted more quota of seats/berths) What is more Godavari Express, a train with 100% occupancy right from its inception some decades back, was also proposed to be extended to Bhubaneswar for the reason that it has no sufficient occupancy rate – the biggest joke!!!

The following trains are made to run via Duvvada, without touching Visakhapatnam Railway Station:


18047 Amaravathi – Howrah – Vasco & return train No.18048
12890 Yashwantpur – Tatanagar & return train No.12889
12897 Pondicherry – Bhubaneswar & return train No.12898
12253 Yashwantpour – Bhgalpur & return train No.12254
12867 Howrah – Pondicherry & return train No. 12868
18496 Bhubaneswar – Rameswaram & return train No.18495

for the simple reason that Duvvada Rly. Station comes under Greater Visakhapatnam with the flimsy reason that Visakhapatnam Railway Station is congested.

It is natural that when no development works are taken for its extension, except giving some cosmetic treatment to the Station, it becomes congested.

The factual position is that a large chunk of the route from Vizag to Duvvada (which was earlier under Gazuwaka Municipality) bears a deserted look with vast stretches of vacant land with wild bushes spreading indiscriminately in the entire area possibly with flourishing anti-social activities, except the NH 5 running through it. It would be all the more frightening to travel to Duvvada to catch a train during night time. Transport facilities are also not so efficient to go to Duvvada Station, more difficult for passengers with luggage, with small children, with handicapped and aged persons.

It is an irony that the highest earning Visakhapatnam City is not given its due recognition, and it is relegated to an unnoticeable and unworthy position, dumping heaps of slur on it and the local people, by diverting these 12 important trains as if these super fast trains hate to see Visakhapatnam. The real reason is that a large number of people from the neighbouring states are residing in this industrial belt of Visakhapatnam with employment and business activities. Probably with the ulterior motive to make comfortable these people from Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh by extending these superfast train facilities to them only.

A new Express Train from Visakhapatnam Railway Station to Mumbai was flagged off by Mrs.D.Puranadeswari, Central Minister, on 24th of March. It is not the be-all and end-all of the aspirations of the North Andhra people.

People are hesitant that there is no certainty that this much hyped up express train will continue to run from/to Visakhapatnam in future; it is likely that this train will either be extended to Bhubaneswar and/or will be diverted to Duvvada without touching Visakhapatnam Railway Station.

Visakhapatnam – Shirdi Special Train has been running with its full capacity right from day one of its run. With the intervention of Sri M.V.S.Sarma, MLC, North Andhra Graduates Constituency, its run was being extended periodically, and as is seen from the media reports, it is proposed to be stopped at any time from April 2010 permanently.

It is also reported in a local Telugu daily, Vision dated 31.3.2010, that the ulterior motive of Eco Railway authorities, is run the same train from Bhubaneswar coolly after the hue and cry dies down. It would not be a matter of surprise, if this train also gets diverted to Duvvada, without touching Visakhapatnam Railway Station.

In the matter of employment opportunities in the Railways, people of North Andhra in the Waltair Division are mostly denied appointments either in the S.C.Railway or in the Eco Railway. S. C. Railway starts practically from Anakapalli Station and since Waltair Division is in Eco Railway, many aspiring candidates from North Andhra are denied selection at the point of interviews, even though they come up with good ranks in the written and other tests, though it is not publicly declared policy. Similarly, since a major chunk of Waltair Division is in Andhra Pradesh State, Eco Railway conveniently overlooks and denies selection to the various posts in the Zone to North Andhra youth. There were occasions reported in the news papers in the past that unemployed job-seeking youth, who have gone to Bhubaneswar to write competitive tests for jobs in the Railway there, were physically obstructed and assaulted, resulting in returning back to their homes with insult and in some cases injuries. There was a talk that evens those, who have written their examinations and scored high marks, are denied selection to the various posts, simply because North Andhra is not in Orissa, but in Andhra Pradesh.

It is reported in Eenadu Daily Newspaper dated 24th August 2011 that in the recent past, the Railways have recruited 410 loco pilots, out of whom, there are 180 people from Bihar, 219 people from West Bengal and only just 11 people from Andhra Pradesh and since it is said that there are no vacancies in other zones, all of them are allotted to Waltair Division.

It is the best example to show that the employable youth in Waltair Division are shown step-motherly attitude in the matter of recruitment.

So Visakhapatnam is in NO-ZONE area and therefore, the unemployed youth of this region are to remain forever as unemployed as far as employment in the Railways is concerned.

Visakhapatnam City is a centre for academic excellence; a major center for health care with well equipped Hospitals manned by highly qualified Doctors; a whole host of public sector and private sector industries generating employment; a tourist center par excellence for visitors from far and near, and accommodating people from all the regions in the country – Tamilians, Malayalees, Kanndigas, Maharastrians, Gujarathis, Pubjabis, Sindhis, Oriyas, Bengalis, Hindi speaking people and others integrating with the local people since generations and living in harmony, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, and region.

While there are a good number of Oriyas employed in many of the industries and offices, Visakhapatnam City is a preferred health care center for people of Orissa. You can see sign boards in Oriya near the corporate Hospitals - Appolo, Seven Hills and Care Hospital.

Visakhapatnam District is a tourist center with gorgeous golden beaches, hill-top resorts, trekking spots, well maintained Parks, entertainment centers and whole host of tourist activities with all the infrastructure handy to the local, national and international tourists. To site an example of the utter neglect exhibited by the Eco Railway in this aspect, the rail route, constructed decades back with Japanese aid for export of manganese iron ore to Japan, passes through Araku Valley. The train passes through breathtaking long tunnels, maneuvering the ups and downs of the hills with their extensive forest greenery and the famous awe-inspiring centuries old Borra Caves, apart from the innumerable tourist spots in the region. Thousands of people from all over India and even international tourists visit this region of grandeur.

While the AP Government is taking all out efforts for promoting tourism, the Eco Railway has been running only one passenger train, that too with a few unreserved rickety compartments for passenger traffic. Even some insignificant tourist places in Eco Railway, other than those in Waltair Division, are given more than the needed support for development of tourism. It is an example of step- motherly treatment to North Andhra regions in Waltair Division.

OUR TASKS AHEAD

Ms. Purandeswarai, MP from Visakhapatnam, during her election campaign announced that creation of separate Railway Zone with headquarters at Visakhapatnam or merger of Waltair division would be her top-most agenda. It is proved to be a tall talk with least achievement. Many people strongly oppose the proposal for merger of Waltair division with SC Railway as an alternative for formation of separate zone. Formation of a separate zone would only help development of hinterland, unbiased development of all the Stations and the areas in the Zone, creation of employment opportunities to the job seeking youth in the Railways. Successive Railway Ministers for the last more than 6 decades after Independence, never bothered to develop this Division which was one of the highest revenue earning divisions.

Sri Yerrannaidu (TDP), former MP from Srikakulam was closely associated with the Railway Parliamentary Standing Committee and Sri Bandaru Dattatreya (BJP) was past Minister for State for Railways. Both of them either could not or did not assess the actual deplorable situation in Waltair Railway Division, and nothing was done by either of them.

Some of the Railway Ministers both in NDA and UPA governments have utilized their positions to develop the Railway networks in their respective constituencies/states and Jaipur, Hazipur Railway Zones were created during the year 2002 and Hubli, Jabalpur, Allahabad, Bilaspur and Bhubaneswar Railway Zones were created during the year 2003. In all there are, as on date, 17 Railway Zones in India. Some of the places in which new Zones were created were not popularly known, or even unknown to the people and definitely less known than Visakhapatnam, and they were created only on political considerations. The revenue earnings of Waltair Division are more than the total earnings of all the Divisions in some of the newly created Railway Zones. Waltair Division, whose earnings are far more than many of the Divisions in India, in spite of the pressure said to have been exerted by the MPs from Andhra Pradesh, has been kept at the same destitute position in which it was earlier was. The pressure exerted by the Andhra Pradesh MPs might be formal devoid of commitment for the cause. God Bless them with long life to contest next elections with the same slogan in their agenda – Merger of Waltair Division with SC Railway/Creation of Visakhapatnam Zone. Probably this sweet slogan will be oft repeated and becomes handy for them for the next many more elections.

Visakhapatnam is comparatively peaceful city and the natives are peace loving people. However, when they are driven to the wall with no body to hear and redress even their long pending genuine grievances, they stand united irrespective of their social and political affiliations, to launch an agitation to achieve their just demands. Already there are People for India, Forum for Better Visakha, Praja Spandana and other like minded voluntary organizations and a few peoples’ representatives of North Andhra, to uplift the status of Visakhapatnam City to the level that it deserves by achieving a separate Railway Zone with headquarters at Visakhapatnam.

With a lot of apathy in the official circles in the Railway Ministry, Railway Board and the Eco Railway; the gross indifference of politicians at the helm of affairs, it becomes inevitable for the people of Costal Andhra in Waltair Railway Division, to initiate a path of struggle for achieving a separate Railway Zone with the present Waltair Division and the bisected S.C.Railway jurisdictional areas upto River Godavari, with headquarters at Visakhapatnam.


MANMADHA RAO MUNAGAVALASA from Visakhapatnam