Harjap Singh Aujla
Ferozepur, February 5, 2021
Prior to 1947, Ferozepur was a highly favoured mid-sized Punjabi town. It had a quite good railway connectivity with Punjab’s most important cities of Lahore and Amritsar. For business and commercial needs, Ferozepur was heavily dependent on Amritsar and for administrative and educational needs it could fall back on Lahore. Both links to the largest cities of Punjab were through the neighboring town of Kasur located in the Lahore district. In 1947, both lifelines got snapped and Ferozepur fell on bad economic times. Now it is nearly a dead city.
During the 2004 – 2014 regime of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, when I came to know about the plans for connecting Baramula, Srinagar, Anantnag, and Qazigund with the rest of India by rail, I thought about the renewed importance of completing the missing portion of the Amritsar – Ferozepur Railway Line. Ferozepur was since long connected to Fazilka, the Fazilka – Abohar Railway link was already completed and Abohar was already connected with Sri Ganga Nagar. From Sri Ganganagar, there were several connections to Bikaner, Jodhpur, Suratgarh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai.
The time seemed opportune to build the missing portion to Amritsar–Ferozepore Railway line. From Ghariala Railway Station near Patti, the distance to Ferozepur was merely fifteen miles or twenty-five kilometers. If Amritsar and Ferozepur are connected, the distance between Amritsar and Mumbai gets cut short by 240 kilometers and the congested NCR corridor gets by-passed. The distance between Srinagar and Mumbai gets cut short by 270 kilometers.
So, I wrote to the then prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to consider restoration of the missing link between these two cities, giving all the above-mentioned reasons. The prime minister liked the idea, but the then rail minister (Laloo Yadav) did not pay much heed to it. Later on, Pawan Bansal of the Congress as the railway minister gave approval to it. The BJP Government after coming into power in 2014, embraced this project realizing its national importance. The land acquisition for the central projects has to be done by the state.
At present, the coffers of the Punjab Government are reportedly empty. They in the fiscal year 2020 had approved a budget of fifty crores of rupees as its share in the cost of land acquisition, but due to chronic fiscal stress, even this amount is not likely to be released. In this project the state has to spend a paltry amount of fifty crores of rupees and the centre has to spend more than 800 crores. Obviously, it is a win-win situation for the state. That is why the general public should request the Central Government to contribute this paltry amount too. For the Central Government rupees, fifty crores are amount to just peanuts. When completed it will become the lifeline of Western Indian states from Kashmir to Kerala. Ferozepur will once again come to life and Amritsar and Srinagar will become the catalysts of this prosperity.