RAM KUMAR KAMAT
KATHMANDU: Fed up with government’s lethargic response to the calls for funds for two broad gauge railway projects — Jogbani-Biratnagar and Jaynagar-Bardiabs — on the Nepal-India border, parliamentary Public Accounts Committee today unanimously issued a fiat to the Ministry of Finance to make available, within seven days, necessary budget so that compensation could be paid to land owners.
The Government of India is building the two projects for which the Nepal government is required to compensate the land owners on its side of the border. PAC also directed the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works to complete the process of compensation within a month from the date of receiving necessary funds from the MoF. PAC has asked MoF to provide necessary funds to MPPW. Although PAC’s earlier such instructions were not
acted upon, today’s directive, however, is expected to prod the government to expedite
the two projects.
India has agreed to construct the two projects in the first phase and three other projects — Nautanwa-Bhairahawa, Rupaidiha-Nepalgunj and New Jalpaiguri-Kakarbhitta — in the second phase. The first phase projects were to be completed by February 2012, but are running slow, thanks to failure on the part of the Nepali side to provide necessary funds.
According to Ram Kumar Lamsal, Director General, Rail Department, the project implementing body in Nepal needs Rs 1.34 billion to compensate the land owners. “We wrote to the government several times, but to no avail,” Lamsal said.
GoI has already called for tender twice for these two projects, but later put the process on hold as the Nepali side failed to provide ‘undisputed land’ to the GoI. “The Indian side has been telling us that they would initiate the construction the moment we provide them land,” Lamsal added.
The railway projects on the border areas are expected to augment trade and tourism between the two countries and facilitate further movement across the border. India had agreed to build these five railway projects during President Dr Ram Baran Yadav’s visit to India in 2010.