Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rail budget: Bihar smiles, Kerala fumes

14 Feb 2009
While railway minister Lalu Prasad sought to be all things to all people dishing out sops and rail connections with his usual elan,not everybody was happy. In fact, Kerala CM V S Achuthanandan and his colleague M Vijayakumar were furious. Achuthanandan called Lalu's budget "disappointing", adding, "We had asked for five trains. But not one has been given."

He also said he was disenchanted by the lack of reduction in freight. Vijayakumar fumed, saying it was astonishing how the rail budget for the entire country was being treated as one for Bihar and Tamil Nadu alone. "The PM must intervene. There are three cabinet ministers from Kerala and they should all work collectively to see justice is given to us."

Lalu's home state, Bihar, of course, had no such complaint. The state has got two new divisions, apart from 12 of the 43 new trains. The frequency of seven other trains has been increased. Lalu being the third railway minister from Bihar in last 10 odd years — others being Ram Vilas Paswan and Nitish Kumar — Bihar has benefited more than any other state.

Since Lalu presented first railway budget for 2004-05, he has introduced 43 trains and promises 12 more this year. Also, with the introduction of the proposed three AC Garib Raths between Bhagalpur and Ajmer, Sitamarhi and Delhi, and Darbhanga and Jammu Tawi — all via Patna — the number of such trains from Bihar would go up to eight. Besides, Patna would get a Janshatabdi for Ranchi and another passenger train to Sitamarhi.

Also proposed are Jayanagar-Ranchi Express, Barauni-Delhi Jansadharan Superfast, Jamalpur-Gaya passenger and Jayanagar-Ajmer, Saharsa-Delhi and Hajipur-Bagaha link services.

Other states to benefit are Congress-ruled Rajasthan (it will have six new trains), Left-ruled West Bengal and DMK-ruled Tamil Nadu. Lalu has proposed three new trains for Bengal and announced the take-over of ailing Burn Standard, the 238-year-old dying wagon maker that has been associated with the history of railways in India.

The rail budget proposes doubling of tracks, gauge conversions and extension of some existing routes in Rajasthan. Ajmer will get its much awaited Agra-Ajmer superfast, a biweekly Ajmer-Bhagalpur Garib Rath via Delhi and a biweekly Jaynagar-Ajmer train. Doubling of the Ajmer-Palanpur line and frequency increase of Ajmer-Rajendra Nagar (Patna) Ziyarat Express from weekly to biweekly are other sops for Rajasthan.

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