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Separate NE railway zone a far cry, Centre throws cold water on demand

100 per cent reservation of jobs not possible; recruitment tests to be conducted in local languages

GUWAHATI, June 12: The Centre has thrown cold water on the long pending demand of creating a separate and exclusive railway zone for the north-eastern States.

Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain told this correspondent on Monday that there has been no such proposal in his ministry and creating a separate railway zone for NE is not an immediate possibility. When asked about repeated demands made by different organizations for creating the exclusive railway zone, Gohain said the Centre has not yet considered such a demand.

Besides several organizations even Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal sought the creation of a separate railway zone for eight north-eastern States by excluding the portion of Bihar and West Bengal which now come under the jurisdiction of NF Railway. “For the overall growth of railway network and economic prosperity of the eight north-eastern States, a separate railway zone is the need of the hour,” Sonowal said soon after he raised his demand before Rajen Gohain in 2016.

Bifurcation of the Maligaon-headquartered NF Railway with a separate zonal railway responsible solely for the seven north-eastern States has been a long-standing demand of the people of Assam and other States of the region as well as various organizations, including the All Assam Students’ Union and Assam Rail Passengers’ Association.

People and organizations of the region have been alleging that most of the benefits, projects as well as railway vacancies are cornered by the NF Railway divisions falling in Bihar and West Bengal, while the seven States of the region remain deprived.

Sources said even though the previous Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu was a little positive towards the demand, the present incumbents have shown total reluctance to the issue.

Gohain also said the demand of 100 per cent reservation of the third and fourth grade jobs for locals in NF Railways cannot be met. He said though preference will be given to local candidates, reservation of jobs cannot be done for them. The recruitment tests will be conducted in local languages like Assamese and Bodo for the benefit of the candidates, he added.

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Ankur Kalita