Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling may seek West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s cooperation in obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) for implementing Sikkim’s first railway line, the Sevoke-Rangpo railway project.
The project that will include Sikkim in the railway map of the country for the first time was stalled due to several reasons, including protests launched by environmentalists over concerns that the trains might kill animals in the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary through which the train tracks are supposed to pass.
The then railway minister, Miss Banerjee had laid the foundation stone for the project on 30 October 2009, while the project that would cost over Rs 1,300 crore had a completion deadline of 2015.
However, in 2016, the Supreme Court gave a green signal to the project, with certain conditions like restricted speed of trains and wireless tracking sensors.
However, the 45- km train project has hit another hurdle in the form of NOC from the GTA.
Most of the proposed train tracks between Sevoke, around 30 km away from Siliguri, to Rangpo in Sikkim fall in the Bengal part under Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts that are under the GTA and will pass through several forest villages and hamlets under the GTA areas.
In the absence of the Gram Sabhas (due to non-holding of rural elections in the Hills for the past several years), which can give a go-ahead to such projects, the Union ministry of tribal affairs has reportedly given elected GTA members the right to act as panchayat members.