Saturday, February 26, 2011

Railway Budget 2011-12

The Railway Budget for 2011-12 presented by Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee for the next year is different in several aspects from the earlier budgets. Mamata, perhaps, set a record for her love for Bengal. Undoubtedly, former railway ministers also had paid greater attention to their respected states and constituencies. Prior to Mamata Bannerjee, Railway Ministers including Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan, Nitish Kumar, Madhav Rao Scindia and others, had been gifting new trains to their states and constituencies. In this light, Mamata has done nothing wrong if she follows her predecessors.

Still, Mamata's her love for Bengal appears to have burdened her mind heavily. Perhaps, it is because the state assembly elections are due there shortly. Mamata appears to have prepared herself to uproot the decades old communist government in West Bengal and become the chief minister. The things have come to such a pass that she is being accused of carrying out work relating to her ministry from Kolkata. Under the circumstances, if Mamata has showered her love on railway passengers in West Bengal, it is not a surprise and is on expected lines.

Railways Income
Like all the previous rail budgets of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), there has been no increase in passenger fare this budget, too. While presenting the budget, Mamata claimed that the railways income would surpass all previous ones. As far as her proposals for West Bengal, are concerned, she has proposed to introduce fifty more local trains for Kolkata alone. Going by her proposal, Kolkata would enjoy the pride of having the largest number of local trains. In addition to these fifty local trains, she also proposed to make Kolkata the 17th zone for Metro rail, and expand its sphere of activity.

Mamata has further proposed to set up a coach factory in Kolkata. She has also promised to set up a similar coach factory at Singur. It may be noted that it is the very same Singur where Tata had proposed to set up his Nano small car factory. Mamata had, then turned it as an issue against the Communist government and had forced the Tata group to pack up from there. To make good the loss the people of Singur have suffered, she now announced to set up a coach factory there.

In addition, she also proposed to set up industrial parks at Bongaiguon (in Assam) and Nandigram (in West Bengal), a software center at Darjeeling and a track machine industry at Uluberia (West Bengal). A lion's share of the twenty hundred thousand new jobs, she has announced to create in her budget, would naturally go to West Bengal. Sixteen other trains would also pass through West Bengal. She has also announced to introduce new train service in the name of Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore who happened to be from Bengal. She even included Bangladesh in her love for Bengal, when she announced a train up to Bangladesh. To give a fillip to the development activity in the Naxal (Maoist guerillas) infested areas, she announced to expand the rail network in these areas.

Attention to Vulnerable Sections
Despite her love for Bengal, Mamata has also paid attention to the vulnerable sections of the society in other parts of the country, the weaker sections, women folk, physically handicapped, former servicemen and their families, students and journalists and proposed numerous concessions for them. At the same time, she presented an attractive blue print to carry the railways forward. But, she is also accused of creating history by bringing the railways to the verge of bankruptcy.

Reportedly, the railways suffered a huge loss of Rs 250 billion because of her love of West Bengal. Senior Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sita Ram Yechuri maintained that during the last 81 days, railways released 79 advertisements in West Bengal. These and her other such activities are causing loss to the railways.

In a nutshell, notwithstanding her several announcements for the rest of the country, if these proposals and announcements are compared with those for West Bengal, the balance would, naturally tilt in favor of West Bengal.

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