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Despite cabinet clearance, no funds for strategic railway lines along China border

The Government of India’s decision to construct strategic railway lines along the China border has reached somewhat of an impasse. One of the main conundrums for the Government of India is that the Defence and Railway Ministry have not been able to reach a consensus over the priority projects.

Out of the 14 strategic railway lines, the four railway lines along the China borderlines are estimated at Rs. 2.1 lakh crore. With a go-ahead from the Cabinet Committee on Security, the Ministry of Railways has now undertaken the responsibility to carry out the final location survey (FLS). But, there has been no conclusive decision made on funding yet, suggests an Indian Express report.

The Ministry of Defence under Manohar Parrikar had allocated a fund of Rs. 344.84 crore in the fiscal year 2016-17 for the strategic railway lines along the China border. However, reports suggest that Ministry of Railways has refused to invest in the four strategic line, citing reasons of commercial isolation. The four strategic lines are Missamari-Tenga-Tawang line, Bilaspur-Manali-Leh line, Pasighat-Texu-Rupai line, and the North Lakhimpur-Bame-Silapathar line. Each of these lines is strategically placed along the border. The railway lines will pass through high altitude in the Himalayan ranges. The successful completion of the project will be the highest railway line in the world, surpassing even China’s Qinghai-Tibet railway line.

The Government of India also believes that the construction cost of the 14 strategic railway lines is going shoot up once the FLS is completed. The increase in the costs of construction is due to the extreme weather conditions and terrain in which the lines are being laid. The clarity on the costs of the construction will be known in an upcoming detailed report and FLS by the Ministry of Railways.

The 14 railway lines that encompass the four ‘priority’ lines were suggested for strategic development in early 2010 and were approved in principle by then Defence Minister A.K. Antony. Despite declaring the strategic lines as national projects and completing the initial survey, no further development has been made.

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