One Man’s Rail
Although it constitutes a tiny fraction of the nation, Panchagarh is getting top priority when it comes to rail services. Five intercity trains, including three from Dhaka, currently run to Panchagarh which is the highest among all districts other than the divisional headquarters. Meanwhile, every other railway project undertaken since 2019 for overall development is running behind schedule, according to the project documents.
The great boost in the Panchagarh railway connectivity took place after Nurul Islam Sujan, member of parliament from the Panchagarh-2 constituency, took charge as the railway minister in early 2019. Since then, six intercity trains and one inter-country train have been added to the railway fleet, of which Panchagarh got two. Another intercity train service was extended to the district.
While this specific district has seen massive growth in connectivity, other connectivity projects are lagging behind.
Even though the railway ministry has had a significant budget increase over the past decade and became one of the five ministries or divisions that received the highest development fund allocations, it has been among the low performers. It could not even achieve the average ADP implementation rate twice in the last six fiscal years, as per an Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) report.
According to reports published by this daily, Bangladesh Railway missed the deadline for a majority of its projects that were scheduled to finish within the last fiscal year. The majority of the connectivity projects of the railway have been extended and costs have gone up due to rising costs of raw materials and other causes. Some projects have been going on for 10-12 years, and sometimes even longer. This goes to show how slow the BR is in finishing its projects. And while these nationally important projects are put on hold, the minister's hometown keeps getting new trains.
The stark contrast between the priorities given to different aspects of the Bangladesh Railway is staggering. One remote district is getting numerous intercity trains while important projects for other parts of the country are getting delayed. Bangladesh Railway is a national asset run by taxpayers' money. It is supposed to run in a manner that benefits all the people, not just a select few that happen to live in the hometown of the minister. This malpractice of favouring one's constituency over other parts of the country when in charge of a specific ministry must come to an end. The railway minister is in charge of the railway service that must serve all the people of the country, not just the less than one percent of people living in Panchagarh. The delays in the implementation of major projects need to be resolved promptly, and the wastage of public money on ever-extending projects needs to be stopped.