Mamata Banerjee enlivens Rajya SabhaApril 23rd, 2010 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) Laced with dollops of humour, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s command performance enlivened the Rajya Sabha Friday and almost turned question hour into a discussion on the functioning of the railways.
On a question about shortage of rolling stock in trains, Mamata said: “You can purchase cloth from the market but not wagons.”
A query on why doctors were not provided on trains elicited this response: “We run 17,000 trains every day. So we need one doctor per train. Then one doctor will require one nurse and one compounder. Then, there is the sub-system that needs to be created.
“Where will the money come from? Even if we raise fares by 40 percent, we will raise only Rs.400 crore. Against this, the railways have lost property worth Rs.500 crore due to Naxal (Maoist) attacks,” Banerjee maintained.
When asked why the railways could not meet emergency requirements for wagons, she quipped: “If we want food, we don’t purchase it all together, we plan.”
Not surprisingly, her predecessor Lalu Prasad was not spared.
Asked why, as in the past, water pouches were not being provided along with meals on trains forcing passengers to purchase this separately, Banerjee riposted: “Lalu karke gaya (Lalu did it)”.
Asked if the railways would drop ‘paneer’ (cottage cheese) from the food it serves on trains, Banerjee retorted: “Why? What if others want it? Some like it, some don’t.”
Given that four of the six questions asked Friday related to the railways, Banerjee had more than her hands full.
“Yeh bhi hamara hai. Bolo, bolo, bolo. Bolo, table kar liya hai (This question also relates to our ministry. Speak, speak, speak. Say, the answer is tabled),” she animatedly told her deputy, E. Ahamad, as the fourth question was called.
Vinay Katiyar of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was perhaps the only member who had Banerjee stumped.
That happened when Banerjee responded to a question on the catering facilities at railway stations for passengers travelling in trains that do not have pantry cars.
“We have created Janata Ahar Centres where an ‘aaloo-puri’ meal is available for Rs.10. These are very popular,” she said.
Katiyar shot back: “But by the time all the passengers would have purchased the food, the train would have left.”
In the midst of all this, there were various interventions from both sides of the house, almost giving the impression that a discussion and not question hour was underway.
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