Mixed reaction in Karnataka over railway budget

February 27th, 2008 - 12:17 am ICT by admin  

Bangalore, Feb 26 (IANS) There were mixed reactions in Karnataka Tuesday over the railway budget for 2008-09 with opposition parties lamenting that the state got a raw deal in terms of new projects and fund allocation, and trade bodies terming it as growth-oriented and progressive. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad mentioned introduction of six trains, including two Garib Raths to and from Bangalore, extension of five trains and launch of four new lines in the state in his budget speech.

However, the absence of any mention about the completion of many pending projects or fund allocation drew flak from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leaders.

“The rail budget has done injustice to Karnataka. Though South-Western Railway (SWR) zone earned profit of Rs.6.4 billion ($160.3 million) and revenue of Rs.22.4 billion ($561 million), there is no benefit to the state in terms of fresh investments,” said BJP leader and Bangalore (South) MP Ananth Kumar.

“New projects such as Bidar-Gulbarga line and Hubli-Ankola line are allotted a mere Rs.200 million and Rs.50 million respectively in the budget. The Bidar-Gulbarga line, for which survey was completed long ago, is yet to take-off though the link will reduce the distance between Bangalore and Delhi by 400 km and travel time by six-seven hours,” he added.

BJP leader and Dharwad (North) MP Prahalad Joshi said there was no mention about the gauge conversion work on Solapur-Gadag and Mangalore-Sakleshpur-Bangalore routes.

“As against a requirement of Rs.37.2 billion to complete 21 ongoing projects in the state, Lalu Prasad has allocated a mere Rs.3.06 billion for various works to be taken up in the next fiscal,” Joshi said.

Former state chief minister and JD-S leader H.D. Kumaraswamy termed the rail budget disappointing, as demands for better passenger and freight connectivity for the people of Karnataka were not addressed adequately.

“Though the railway budget is common man-friendly at the national level, it has not done justice to the state’s demands,” Kumaraswamy told reporters here.

Kumaraswamy also said there was no mention of a freight corridor project from north to south or vice versa on the lines of similar corridor projects coming up from west to north and north to east.

He, however, thanked the railway minister for sanctioning four new trains and allocating funds for Shimoga-Talaguppa and Solapur-Gadag gauge conversion.

Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI) president R.C. Purohit said the railway budget had been a disappointment for Karnataka, as there was no mention of taking up electrification or doubling of lines in the state.

“But reduction in freight rates on petrol, diesel and iron ore will have a positive impact on the economy. The PPP (private-public participation) option to modernise metro and mini metro stations is a welcome move,” Purohit said in a statement.

According to Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC), the railway budget was appealing.

BCIC president John M. Panikar lauded Lalu Prasad for the PPP schemes to attract investments.

“Introduction of 10 new Garib Raths and 53 new trains will benefit the common man and provide greater connectivity to existing and newer places. The railways can meet the increasing demand for capacity and speed if the East and West corridors are completed on schedule,” Pankiar noted.

Welcoming the reduction of freight rates and passenger fares, BCIC said in a statement that the modernisation steps such as introduction of television and internet services on trains, energy-saving measures and smart card-based tickets will help the railways to keep pace with international norms.

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