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Rail Board drops Bhatni-Hathua rail project due to delay in land acquisition

The Railway Board has cancelled a railway project connecting Bhatni in Deoria district to Hathua in Bihar’s Gopalganj district, bringing cheer to farmers who had been protesting against the acquisition of land for the rail line. The railways dropped the project due to “delay in land acquisition”.

The project — 67 km of the track was to be in Bihar and 12.45 km in UP — was sanctioned in 2005-’06 when Lalu Prasad Yadav was the Railway Minister. It was then estimated to cost Rs 230 crore. Among the 10 proposed halts was Yadav’s village Phulwaria in Gopalganj. For the railway line in UP, the government planned to take over more than 41 hectares of land from 14 villages in Deoria.

On receiving land acquisition notices, the farmers started to protest. They formed a Bhumi Bachao Kishan Sangharsh Samiti and launched a campaign against land acquisition and the construction of the track. The Samiti sent memoranda to various authorities, raising objections and also started a sit-in at Bhatni.

Last year, the UP government wrote to the chief administrative officer of North Eastern Railway, Gorakhpur, requesting the Railways to reconsider the project. After several rounds of talks between state government officials and the Railways, the Railway Board decided to drop the project.

“We considered dropping the project on various issues and among them was delay in land acquisition and there was proper railway connectivity in those regions,” North-Eastern Railway Chief Public Relations Officer Pankaj Singh said on Friday.

The farmers protesting against the railway line also expressed happiness with the Railway Board’s decision. “We are happy to know that the Railway Board has dropped the project. The project was prepared only to please Lalu Prasad and his family because the railway line was proposed to connect their villages,” said TN Mishra, president of the Bhumi Bachao Kishan Sangharsh Samiti.

The samiti also objected since more than 1,000 farmers set to lose their land were small and marginal agriculturists.

After deciding not to go ahead with the project, the Railway Board wrote a letter to the state government, asking it to return Rs 9.24 crore it had given for the land acquisition. The board said the money had been sent to the district magistrate of Deoria from 2007 to 2010. When contacted, District Magistrate Amit Kishore said, “We returned the money to the Railways recently.”

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