Encroachments along railway tracks pose threat to security

NEW DELHI: Encroachments around railway tracks are not only eating into crucial realty, but are also posing serious security threat. Last Thursday, workers went on a protest after a goods train driver was attacked and robbed by miscreants near the Dayabasti station as the train had to slow down due to encroachments on the tracks.

Saturday night’s incident at Shakurbasti station where the Gorakdham Express was targeted by robbers has again brought the issue into sharp focus. Officials say criminal activities have spiralled because of rampant encroachments, which have made policing tough. Arun Arora, divisional railway manager (Delhi division), told TOI that they had received several complaints of organised gangs flourishing in these areas. “A special drive has been launched to protect passengers and staff. RPF personnel have been deployed on trains, especially on crime-prone stretches,” said Arora.

Not just security, the encroachments have hit several infrastructural projects, causing losses worth crores of rupees. If completed, these projects could help ease congestion to a large extent. According to senior officials, a survey was completed recently on six clusters along the tracks by the Delhi division of the railways and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) following an NGT order last year. Officials said about 50,000 encroachments had been identified till now across Delhi. Of these, 23,000 lie within the safety zone (dangerously close to the tracks), but the city government hasn’t done anything to relocate them.

The survey , which aimed at cleaning up tracks and public safety, was conducted at a 7km stretch. “We started the survey in May 2015 with the DUSIB. It was completed in July this year and covered six clusters of encroachments in the safety zone identified in the Delhi division,” said a senior railway official. “But the relocation has not started yet. In 2004, DUSIB was given Rs 11.25 crore to complete the work. The state government has now asked us to pay about Rs 20 lakh for each encroachment. For 50,000 of them, it would cost us more than Rs 10,000 crore,” he said.  In 1999, a budget of Rs 156 crore was sanctioned for the project to remove encroachments from tracks. However, the project couldn’t take off. It was restarted in 2006 at a revised cost of Rs 180 crore.

The official quoted above said it was difficult to develop infrastructure with these encroachments in place. “Many of our projects, including the grade separator at Daya Basti worth Rs 192 crore and a coaching terminal at Shakurbasti worth Rs 170 crore, are getting delayed because of this menace. A number of other initiatives are also on hold as the railways does not have land to plan development,” the official said.

The redevelopment of the Ring Railway–a 35.36km stretch with 21 stations–is pending as encroachments are “dangerously close” to the tracks. “According to the Indian Railway Act, no settlement can come up 15 metres from the track on either side. At some places, the encroachers are right next to the track. No development is possible unless they are removed,” the officer added.

Author: Anvit Srivastava

Credits Economic Times

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