Tamil Nadu Discriminated in Railway Projects (Paper Projects and Ghost Projects)

K. Anantharaman

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2003 (ID. 2003-06-02); Updated: 2016-04-01
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1. Introduction

Tamil Nadu has been and is being discriminated by the Indian Government in railway projects for years. This has been the case under every successive government irrespective of which party was in power. Every time the Indian Railways Minister announces new railway projects for the year, a chorus of complaints rises from Tamil Nadu. In the past several years the Indian Railways Ministry has found a neat little trick. The railways minister announces some attractive projects for Tamil Nadu, and the people and politicians of Tamil Nadu are happy. Time passes. When the railway budget is released the previously announced railway projects in Tamil Nadu get no funds or meager funds and the projects announced with much publicity are put on hold or progress at snails pace dragging on for years, sometimes well over a decade. We call these "paper projects" (because they only exist in paper, not in reality) or "ghost projects" (because they just disappear in thin air).

We start with (Section 2) statements made in 2016 by the current and former chief ministers of Tamil Nadu pointing to these paper projects and requesting funds that were not forthcoming for years. Then, in Section 3, we list several additional examples from earlier years. Section 4 shows this paper project situation is present in another non-Hindi state West Bengal also. Feedbacks from 3 readers pointing to unfinished projects in their district are included at the end.

In this article we have listed discrimination in railway projects dating from 1996 to 2016, covering a span of 20 years. This article has served its purpose by bringing Indian Railways discriminatory practices to the attention of our reader. We will no longer be updating this article by adding additional examples from future years. We also want to point out that the discriminated projects listed in this article is only a fraction of such projects; it is not a complete list. We just listed projects we came across as we read newspapers.

If someone is reading this article 10 or 20 years from now, all or most of the paper projects listed here would have been completed but there would be new paper projects awaiting funding for years to come. 

2. Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers List Some Paper Projects (Ghost Projects)

In 2016, before the railway budget was to be presented, former Tamilnadu Chief Ministeer Karunanidhi urged the Indian Government Railways Minister to take up the railway projects for Tamil Nadu that were shelved over the years (that is the past paper projects or ghost projects) . Karumanidhi listed some of those stalled projects that were previously announced but not completed because of Indian government not allocating sufficient funds: The Chennai Beach-Korukkuppettai third line, Chennai Central-Basin Bridge fifth and sixth line, Athippattu-Puthur line, Chennai Beach-Athippattu fourth line and Sriperumbudur-Guduvancherry line, Kumbakonam-Tiruvarur line, Omalur-Mettur Dam line, Erode-Palani line, Madurai-Tutucorin line via Aruppukkottai are some of the stalled projects he listed. Some of these projects were announced during 1996-97 and 1998-99 and all preliminary works like studies on viability had been conmpleted but the projects were yet to start even after over 16 years. Karunanidhi likened it to showing a fruit to a child and then all of a sudden hiding it to the disappointment of the child. (Economics Tiimes; February 2, 2016)

Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalthaa wrote to Indian Prime Minister Modi in 2016 that work on 20 projects announced in earlier railway budgets were yet to commence for want of funds. "I hope that the ensuing rail budget will fulfill the long pending expectations of the traveling public of Tamil Nadu," she added. [NDTV News; February 11, 2016)

3. A Few Examples of Discrimination from the Past


Railways Ministry announced 12 projects for Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in February 1999.  At the very same time, the ministry sent memoranda to local railway officers in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal to stop allocation of funds even for land acquisition for these projects. How can rail lines be built if even the land is not acquired? These were meant to be "paper projects". Thus while publicly making a grand announcement from New Delhi, in private, instructions were sent to local officers not to proceed with the project. Note that both West Bengal and Tamil Nadu are further away from the Hindi belt, the power center of India.


Here are some examples of how Tamil Nadu projects were short changed in 2001. Thanjavur-Vilupuram rail project received a mere 10 crore Rupees while the project cost was 231 crores (1 crore = 10 million). Madurai-Rameswaram project received 10 crore Rupees out of the total cost of 240 crores. Cuddalore-Salem project received 6 crores out of the total project cost of 198 crores. Thiruchendur-Virudhunagar project received 20 crores while the project cost was 327 crores. Thiruchi-Manamadurai project received 10 crores out of the necessary 175 crores. What is the purpose of making grand announcements of these projects if the Railway Ministry of the Government of India has no intention of allocating sufficient funds to complete them in a few years?


We will give just two examples from 2002. Quilon-Tenkasi-Tirunelveli-Thiruchendur rail project received a mere 25 crore Rupees out of the total requirement of 465 crores. Tamil Nadu wants the Salem-Vriddhachalam-Cuddalore project completed soon and so Tamil Nadu State Government is providing 50% of the funds for this project (although it is the Indian Government responsibility to fund 100% of all rail projects). But Indian Government is budgeting in 2002 only 15 crore Rupees out of the total cost of 200 crores.


Here are couple of exampoles from 2009. Although Dindigul-Pollachi-Palakkadu line: Indian Railways Ministry nallotted only 31 crore Rupees although the estimated cost is 175 crore for the current year. So the project would drg on for many more years. Broad gauge conversion of Mayiladuthurai–Tiruvarur line to provide direct broad gauge link from Chennai to Nagore was planned to be converted by December 2010 Rhis requires 60 crore Rupees but only 15 crore was allotted. (The Hindu; July 13, 2009).


On August 3, 2008, the then Tamil Nadu State Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi said that Indian government had listed project worth 41,000 crore Rupees but it has allocated only 4,747 crore Rupees.

4. Other Non-Hindi States are Discriminated Too

Tamil Nadu is not alone in getting "paper projects" which receive no funds or very little funds from the Indian Government. West Bengal, another non-Hindi state, has also noticed Indian Government playing games by announcing projects and then not funding them. In February 1999, West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu said that it was one thing to make promises (announce projects) and quite another to fulfill them. He cited examples of over 1000 crore Rupees of projects announced for his state of which only 200 crores were actually funded.

NOTE: Tamil names are sometimes spelled differently by different people. We have used the most commonly used spellings. Here are some variations: Thanjavur - Thanjavoor; Vilupuram - Villupuram, Vizhupuram, Vizupuram; Rameswaram - Rameshwaram; Thiruchendur - Tiruchendur; Virudhunagar- Viruthunagar; Thiruchi - Trichy, Thiruchirapalli; Tenkasi - Thenkasi; Tindivanam - Thindivanam, Tirunelveli - Thirunelveli.

Feedbacks and Author's Closure


I am from Pondicherry, the Tamil speaking Union Territory of India. Here is another example of paper projects. 1997-98 railway budget promised work on broad gauge conversion of the Pondicherry-Villupuram line and a technical survey on laying a new line between Pondycherry and Tindivanam and Cuddalore. But the Planning Commission did not allocate any funds for these projects.

Ramalaxmi Jeyaraman
July 9, 2003


What tricks the Indian government plays to hoodwink Tamil Nadu and other Hindi states? Just recently I read the following news, showing that the "paper project tricks" are still on. On July 1, 2006 Southern Railways Manager Thomas Varghese told reporters in Chennai (Tamil Nadu) that although the Thirunelveli-Thiruchendur broad gauge was announced earlier, no funds were allocated in the budget and so work would not start.

P. Nallasivam
July 17, 2006


Here is a paper project from my own neighborhood. I am from Salem (Tamilnadu). Indian government announced a broad gauge rail-line between Karur and Salem in 1996-97 at a cost of 136 crore Rupees. Railways spent a mere 4.76 crore in 1997-1998, then 15 crores in 1998-1999. Such lackluster funding continues. The rail line is still nowhere near completion as of March 2009. The bridge is about half completed. Rail tracks are yet to be laid in over half the distance. What is the purpose of announcing grandiose projects and then let them stagnate for years? 

March 20, 2009

(EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Indian Railways Ministry and Ministers announce phantom or ghost railway projects to Tamilnadu and then allocate no funds in the railways budget.)


Tamil Nadu Economy

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