Budget pro-people, projects for all parts of India: Mamata

February 25th, 2011 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) Defending herself against charges of presenting a “populist and Bengal-centric” budget, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday said the new projects and trains announced by her were for the whole nation and she only had intended her budget to be “pro-people”.She also attacked the Left parties, who are her worst critics, terming them “opportunists” and saying that their government in poll-bound West Bengal was “bankrupt” and that they should focus on strengthening the fiscal strength of the state first.

“If this (budget) is pro-people, let it be populist,” she said, seeking to refute the opposition’s charges of presenting a populist budget focusing on West Bengal, which is going to polls soon.

Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is the strongest challengers to the ruling Left parties in West Bengal.

“We have given projects to the entire country including Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Assam. Bengal is not outside India,” she said.

Countering the Left parties’ charge that she had left the railways bankrupt, Banerjee said: “Their government (in West Bengal) is bankrupt as it has about Rs.2 lakh crore as debt. Charity begins at home.”

She said the Left knew they could not fight her politically and so they made such allegations to divert attention from their own failures.

Her critics, she said, were claiming till recently that the railways were unable to pay dividends.

“Today you see the magic. Our financial performance is strong. We are suffering only on account of Sixth Pay Commission commitments. Remember, almost half of all government employees belong to railways,” she added.

Asked how she could manage revenues without a hike in the passenger fares, she said: “Burdening the passenger is an easy option. But our employees tried hard to generate internal resources and also undertook a series of austerity measures.”

Banerjee said the railways’ freight loads had gone up in the recent years and revenue from passenger services too had increased. “Next year, there will be stronger growth,” she added.

Blaming the frequent political agitations such as the Gujjar protest in Rajasthan, and Maoist attacks across the country for disrupting rail traffic, she noted that law and order were the responsibility of the state governments.

The railway minister claimed that she had created a record by laying 700 km of new rail line last year. “We will touch 1,000 km next year,” she said.

On the proposal for a rail coach factory in Singur where Trinamool Congress-led protests led to the Tata’s Nano car plant being shifted, Banerjee said the project would require about 100 acres of land compared to the 1,000 acres that the car manufacturer needed.

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