Lalu’s rail budget invites bouquets, brickbats in Lok Sabha

March 10th, 2008 - 10:30 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party

New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) Brickbats and bouquets poured in for Railway Minister Lalu Prasad from all sides in the Lok Sabha Monday during a discussion on the railway budget which he presented in the house last month. While Sumitra Mahajan of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Brahmanand Panda of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) castigated Lalu Prasad for ignoring their states - Maharashtra and Orissa respectivelyb - Rameshwar Oraon of the Congress deplored the pace at which railway projects were being completed in the country.

“Laluji has presented a historical budget, but he should do something to ensure that the projects are completed on time. What we see today is… a child becomes a senior citizen but the projects remain incomplete,” Oraon said.

Prabodh Panda of the Communist Party of India (CPI) said the railway minister like a magician had filled the budget with “talks and tricks” and there was no truth in his claims.

“As a consultative committee member, we had recommended the modernisation of the Howrah train. In the budget, Lalu Prasad brought in Patna, while Howrah is missing,” he said.

Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, who was on the chair, kept requesting members to restrict their observations to five minute, but none of them was willing to yield.

“There are over 120 members, who have given notices to the chair to speak on the railway budget. If each of them takes more than five minutes, the discussion will continue till Tuesday,” Atwal said.

Rewati Raman Singh of the Samajwadi Party thanked Lalu Prasad for earning over Rs.25,000 crore (Rs.250 billion) in profits in the current fiscal, but deplored the state of sanitation in trains and on railway platforms.

“During a recent visit to Balia in Uttar Pradesh, I saw a drum kept in the toilet of the Brahmputra Mail,” he said.

He also chided Minister of State for Railways Naranbhai J. Rathwa, saying he always took notes of all that was said in the house but never bothered to implement them.

Vijay Krishna of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the party Lalu Prasad heads, termed the rail budget historical, while Laxmi Narayan Pandey of the BJP wondered how stations had been metamorphosed into model stations.

There were attempts to counter Lalu Prasad’s claim that he had given special attention to the safety of passengers.

“It was during the time of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime that the Railway Safety Fund (RSF) was created with Rs.17,000 crore (Rs.170 billion),” Rajiv Ranjan Singh of the Janata Dal-United said, adding that the budget was nothing but a jugglery of statistics.

Concerns were expressed over the depleting number of employees in the railways.

“It used to be around 1.9 million, which has now gone down to 1.3 million. What used to be the salary of 600,000 employees has now become the profit of railways, as the ministry has reduced the staff strength,” Iliyas Azmi of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said.

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