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19 Dec 2016

Squatters hit rail expansion: NFR

Umashankar Singh Yadav at Siliguri Junction on Sunday.
Picture by Passang Yolmo
TT, Siliguri, Dec. 18: A senior official of the Northeast Frontier Railway today said encroachment was coming in the way of developing New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri Junction stations and he had sought the state government's help to remove squatters.
Umashankar Singh Yadav, the divisional railway manager of the NFR, visited both the stations today.
"The railways cannot remove encroachments without the state government's help. There are more than 12,000 illegal encroachments at the two stations, because of which we cannot take up any development project. I had met the state home secretary at Nabanna recently and sought the government's help to remove the encroachers from NJP and Siliguri Junction stations. The tourism minister is also aware of the problem," Yadav said during his visit to the Siliguri Junction station.
He explained how the squatters were affecting plans for development at the two stations.
"We cannot take any step for the beautification of the NJP station as there are more than 100 concrete shops which are occupying the front of the premises illegally. There are also 150-odd shops on encroached land at Siliguri Junction, hampering the laying of new tracks. If we get the required land, we can divert goods trains out of this station and introduce more passenger trains to reduce pressure on NJP," said the railway officer.
Members of trade bodies, which always demand the introduction of more long distance trains from Siliguri, said some sincere efforts were required to be taken by the railways and state government to solve the encroachment problem.
"We have always demanded more long-distance-trains at Siliguri. If trains like Darjeeling Mail (that connects NJP and Sealdah) are introduced at Siliguri, they will benefit not only tourists but also residents of Siliguri who travel about 7km to catch the train from NJP. I think instead of putting the blame on each other, the railways should settle the issue of encroachment jointly with the state government for the benefit of common people," Biswajit Das, the secretary of the Federation of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, north Bengal, said.
Yadav said the Unesco had been paid Rs 3.5 crore for preparing the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway early this year. "The Unesco will prepare the plan in two years. Our basic objective is to preserve the Unesco heritage site that attracts thousands of tourists from across the world," he said.

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