The fund allocation for the Mysuru Railway Division in the Union Budget 2021-22 indicates that the focus is on critical ongoing projects while nominal amounts have been earmarked for new railway lines or the sanctioned works which are yet to commence.
The Shivamogga-Shikaripur-Ranebennur line gets a whopping ₹100 crore while the track doubling work on the Arsikere-Tumakuru section – which is partially in the Mysuru Railway Division – has received ₹46.75 crore. The latter is critical and part of the track doubling work connecting Hubballi and Bengaluru and has been described as “critical project’’.
But the Mysuru (Belagola) to Kushalnagar new line project spanning 87 km gets a nominal allocation though the local MP Pratap Simha is batting for it.
Though he is supportive of the railway line till Kushalnagar there is widespread opposition to it on the grounds that such linear infrastructure projects will bisect wildlife habitat and escalate human-animal conflict which is already high in the region.
In addition the activists opposed to the project have pointed to the environmental damage in the region which is already ecologically fragile. There are also concerns that approval for the Mysuru-Kushalnagar railway line will set a precedent as there is a demand for a new track linking Madikeri with north Kerala from a section of the stakeholders in that State.
Though the preliminary works pertaining to the location survey and final line survey were taken up, the railways also realised the negative rate of returns accruing from the project while land is also yet to be acquired by the State government and handed over to the railways.
The estimated cost of Mysuru-Kushalnagar railway line (87.2 km) is ₹1854.62 crore and will require 247.85 hectares of dryland and 275.15 hectares of wetland and the rate of returns was pegged at minus 4.92 per cent. The Chief Public Relations Officer of South Western Railway said the land has to be provided by the State government free of cost and it is only then that the project can move forward.
Similarly, Hassan (Alur) – Belur works has received a nominal allocation as is the norm for projects that have already received administrative nod and is included in the railways book of approved works (Pink Book). The Birur-Shivamogga line (60 km) has received a nominal amount indicating that the work is bound to be sluggish till other hurdles including land acquisition issues are cleared.
Likewise, the Bengaluru (Hejjala)-Chamarajanagar line which will pass though Malavalli and Kollegal, has received nominal allocation underlining the uncertainty over the project. The Kadur-Chikkamagaluru-Sakleshspur railway line work has received ₹1 crore while Shivamogga-Harihar line has a nominal allocation.