Thulasi and his family have been tremendously supportive of my journey. Thulasi has provided terrific back office support over the past two weeks to arrange accommodation, meetings, press interfaces, etc. Since reaching Visakapattinam I have had his company and that of his family. This morning they returned to Visakapattinam and I started for Sambalpur. Thulasi will try to join me on a part of the North East schedule.
On the way I purchased a copy of the Indian Express. The interaction with the correspondent the previous evening was featured titled “In a swift journey, railman discovers India”. The Cuttack-Angul stretch is an apology of a National Highway. The NHAI should become more safety conscious and provide adequate advance warnings of the road condition and diversions. En route to Sambalpur I completed 4000 kms and a sixth of the schedule in terms of time.
Accommodation was arranged in the GH of Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, in Burla on the Raipur highway. During my stint in SE Railway MCL was a part of SECL. MCL today is the second largest producer of coal in the country from the CIL stable. Between SECL and MCL, more than half the annual production of 420 million tonnes of CIL is produced. Mr. KN Choudhary was a dear friend at the time and I am fortunate to find him as Chief Manager in MCL after so many years. The evening was most informative with Mr Choudhary and his colleague Mr Behuria updating me on the latest innovations in the production process such as the deployment of the surface miner (which reduces external contamination and pollution) and the mobile crusher (which improves the crushing capacity virtually overnight). The car journey also caught their fancy. Both of them gave valuable inputs regarding the route to Kolkotta and I have made the necessary changes. They also put me in touch with their contacts for assistance in the North East and the North. Such spontaneous offer of help is what makes you believe in the ‘Unseen Hand’.
The Hirakud Dam is the largest earthen dam in Asia – the dam is 4.8 kms long (3.6 kms is earthen) and the dykes on either side together total 20 kms. The dykes end up at the edge of thick forest reserves. The Jawahar Minar and the Gandhi Minar stand as sentinels of the Dam. The views from atop the Minar are panoramic and a treat for the eyes. Photography is prohibited. A drive along the dyke to view the sunset is a captivating experience. The company of RK Tripati made the visit more enjoyable.