MPs from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) staged a protest in Vijayawada on Tuesday over the demand for a separate railway zone with its headquarters at Visakhapatnam, after they walked out from a meeting called by the South Central Railway (SCR).
MPs who oversaw the jurisdiction of the SCR's Vijayawada, Guntur and Guntakal divisons had been called for the meeting in Vijayawada, with SCR General Managar Vinod Kumar Yadav.
Early on Tuesday, the concerned MPs met at Vijayawada MP Kesineni Nani’s house, where they chalked out a plan for the protest.
Submitting representations at the meeting, the MPs demanded that the railway zone, which was promised in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, be created. When Yadav pointed out that he was not the competent authority to handle the issue, they raised slogans and walked out.
Speaking to reporters, Yadav said, "The MPs have made their demand for a new zone. As the MPs itself were mentioning, the decision is to be taken by the Government of India, so what they requested in this meeting was that SCR should convey their sentiments to the Ministry of Railways and we have assured them of the same."
"Lot of infrastructure development work has taken place as SCR is redeveloping six stations in Andhra, including Tirupati, Nellore, Vijayawada, Guntur, Guntakal and Kurnool," he added.
After the walk out, the TDP MPs staged a protest outside the meeting venue.
“A separate railway zone is the right of the people of Andhra Pradesh. We are more keen on fulfilment of this particular promise made at the time of bifurcation. Local issues can be addressed at the local level by engaging the authorities here,” Nani told reporters.
In August this year, a bitter spat broke out on camera between senior TDP leaders and BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao during a discussion at Rail Bhavan in New Delhi on the same issue, in the presence of Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal.
The demand for a separate zone, with its headquarters at Visakhapatnam, is often clubbed with protests for granting Special Category Status to Andhra. Many along Andhra’s northern coast have reiterated the demand.
The separate railway zone for Andhra Pradesh was included in the 13th Schedule of the AP Reorganisation Act. The state government had suggested that the railway zone could be established by clubbing Waltair, Vijayawada, Guntur and Guntakal divisions.
In March this year, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba said that feasibility reports and the Railway Board were not in favour of a new railway zone for the state, which had triggered protests.
Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has also assured his state several times that the railway zone would definitely be established.