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Movement for broadgauge picks up in Shimoga

By Pramod Mellegatti

SHIMOGA Nov. 30. The long-standing demand for converting the Shimoga-Talaguppa railway line into broadgauge has picked up momentum thanks to a movement spearheaded by a Sagar-based non-political body under the banner of the Shimoga-Talaguppa Railway Broadgauge Action Committee.

What has spurred the action committee to launch the movement is the reported move to close the railway section between Shimoga and Talaguppa.

It may be recalled that this was the only section in the area that was left out of the uni-gauge programme launched in the early nineties.

The reason attributed to this was the reported differences between the then Railway Minister, C.K. Jaffer Sharief, and the then Chief Minister S. Bangarappa, who hails from Shimoga district.

The importance of gauge conversion between Shimoga and Talaguppa can hardly be emphasised as it would provide a direct trunk line linking Bangalore with the Konkan Railway.

The fact that the proposed Rs. 100-crore gauge conversion work is being sanctioned only Rs. 2 crore every year indicates the priority that is being given to the Shimoga-Talaguppa section.

The action committee is led by the well-known writer, N. D'Souza, who is the working president, and U.J. Mallikarjun, president. It comprises the Magsaysay Award winner, K.V. Subbanna, and C. Gopalakrishna Rao (vice-presidents), and William (general secretary).

Members of the Sagar town municipality, taluk panchayat, and representatives of various organisations have also associated themselves with the movement.

The action committee has decided to intensify its movement if the Railway authorities did not give up the move to close the section.

What has come in for criticism is the "lack of interest" of Mr. Bangarappa, who is now Shimoga MP, in the gauge conversion project despite representations made to him by various associations and organisations.

The railway line between Shimoga and Talaguppa has a chequered history. The maiden rail journey to Sagar town was by Mirza Ismail, Dewan of the erstwhile Mysore rulers, when he landed at the temporary railway station in 1939. This was followed by a visit to the Jog Falls near Sagar by Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, Maharaja of Mysore. He travelled in a yellow coloured special train along with his family. His car was also brought by the same train. People in Sagar were thrilled to see Maharaja alight from the train.

The Mysore State Railway transformed the social and economic conditions of the people of the Malnad region as it not only resulted in a sharp increase in the number of visitors to Jog Falls but also made transport of goods easy.

The rail service also helped, although indirectly, the bus service in mofussil areas as private buses provided link services to people travelling by train. In view of this, a case was made out for upgrading the Sagar town railway station.

Subsequently, the rail service in the Shimoga-Talaguppa region came to be neglected. Three passenger trains used to run daily between Shimoga and Talaguppa, besides goods trains. Later, the passenger trains were reduced to one while the goods trains were withdrawn.

A spokesman for the action committee termed as unfortunate the reported decision to close the Shimoga-Talaguppa section on the ground that it was "not feasible". He said that the movement was not for seeking a new train but was for retaining the existing train and converting the Shimoga-Talaguppa line into broad gauge.

He pointed out that when metre gauge lines were converted into broadgauge all over the country under the uni-gauge project, it was, perhaps, only the Shimoga-Talaguppa section that was left out.

The main demands of the action committee, the spokesman said, were a direct link to Bangalore by converting the Shimoga-Talaguppa section into broadgauge to improve the transport network and to promote tourism.

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