NDA Government's Railway Budget Comes Under Attack From All Sides

26/02/2015 3:50 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 25: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu with MOS Manoj Sinha and their team members giving final touches to the Railway Budget 2015-16 at Railway Ministers Chamber, Rail Bhawan on February 25, 2015 in New Delhi, India. Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will be presenting the 2015-16 Railway Budget in the Parliament on February 26. This will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA Governments first railway budget. (Photo by Virendra Singh Gosain/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Opposition today attacked the first full-fledged Railway budget of the BJP-led NDA government saying it lacked vision and road map to execute the "nice ideas it is full of".

The first full-fledged Railway Budget of the incumbent NDA Government was presented by Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu in Parliament today.

Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and TMC's Dinesh Trivedi, both of whom are also former Railway Ministers, slammed the budget for lacking in substance and merely "weaving dreams".

"It's a nicely-worded budget speech. But there is no vision as to how he is going to achieve goals. The minister says he will get into PPP model, BoT agreements, etc. If you depend on others, you are unlikely to meet your targets," Kharge told reporters outside Parliament.

Trivedi, who has at times gone against his party's line in praising the government, was also disdainful for the budget, saying it has woven a dream for people but lacks plan to fulfil it.

"It's like saying I will go to moon. It's an idea, a dream but what is important is how are you going to reach there. It's all about future but your finances presently suffer from almost 50 per cent shortfall. How are you going to meet the gap," he told reporters.

Trivedi, who was Railway Minister in UPA government and had to quit due to his party's opposition to his reform measures, went on to say that it was not a budget but just an idea.

"I see Railways going the Air India way. Its coffers are empty," he said.

Trivedi also questioned the practicality of introducing bullet trains considering the massive costs they would entail.

"Bullet train is 'Alice in Wonderland', a great idea, but one bullet train for one kilometer will cost about Rs.300 crores. Is it doable?" he asked.

Senior BJD leader Tathagata Satpathy also attacked the Railway budget, calling it hollow and disappointing. He said he would give only 2 out 10 points to it.

"It's completely hollow. He (Prabhu) spoke of an idea but that idea has not been enunciated, meaning not much thought has gone behind it," he told .

Kharge also criticised Prabhu's decision to not announce new trains, saying development is not static like stagnant water.

The NDA government's railway budget for 2015-16 is a repetition of what the UPA government presented in the past, former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said on Thursday.

He said the budget only took forward previous budgets presented by the United Progressive Alliance government.

"It's repetitive...," he told reporters after Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu presented the budget in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

He said the IT provisions being talked about now were actually introduced by former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi a long time ago.

"It would have been good had he done something in the nine months of his government," Bansal said.

Calling the budget "disappointing", he accused the NDA Government of wrongly taking credit for not increasing passenger fares.

He felt that the fare should have been actually lowered in the wake of a lowering of diesel prices.

"During my time as minister, we had introduced a fuel adjustment component, which means that if the cost of fuel like diesel and electricity rises, then there would be a proportionate increase in the ticket fare," said Bansal. "In the same way, if the fuel cost lowers, then the fare would also be correspondingly reduced."

"Nine months back they increased the fare by 14 percent because the diesel cost was going up. Since then, the diesel price has almost halved, but there is no lowering of fares. So, when they said that we will not raise the fare, they were misleading people, the fare should have been lowered instead. Accordingly the fuel adjustment component of the fare should have been lowered, but they are taking credit for not raising it," he added.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati said the Railway Budget proposals for fiscal 2015-16 did not reflect any sign of improvement in the condition of the railways since the NDA Government had taken charge in 2014.

"It has been nine months since the formation of the government and we haven't seen any improvement in condition of the railways," she told journalists.

Presenting his maiden railway budget, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said the railways has to undergo a transformation over the next five years.

He said the proposed investment in railways will be Rs. eight lakh fifty six thousand twenty crores by 2019.

The thrust of the Railways is to become a prime mover of the economy once again, act as a resource mobilisation for higher investments, decongestion of heavy haul routes and speeding up of trains, emphasis on gauge conversion, doubling, tripling and electrification.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury on Thursday said the privatisation of the Indian Railways is against the rights of the people.

"As far as we can see and the trends of the government show that to a large extent, talks will be there of privatisation and such kind of privatisation is against the rights of the country and the people," he said.

"For bullet trains, there is neither proper infrastructure nor any law for acquisition of land. It will be so expensive that it will be beyond the reach of 'aam aadmi'," he added.

The Railway budget also came in for criticism from within the ruling alliance with NDA constituent Shiv Sena claiming it lacked clarity on how the money will come for the various projects.

"We are completely dissatisfied with the budget. They have said so many things in the budget. But from where will the money come?," senior Shivsena leader and North-west Mumbai MP Gajanan Kirtikar said, adding the budget has kept everyone in "dark".

Despite a patch-up post Maharashtra Assembly polls, Shiv Sena has been taking a stance against BJP on several issues, including the Land Acquisition Bill, reflecting the unease in ties. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had quit Sena to join BJP before his induction in the Narenda Modi Cabinet.

"He (railway minister) is talking about raising the height of platforms which requires Rs 97 crore. One has to allot money for these projects at one go if they have to be completed. They are talking about tripling and doubling lines, but which lines will they undertake work on. They have kept us in dark," Kirtikar said.

Taking a jibe, Chandrakant Khaire, Shivsena MP from Aurangabad, said "the budget is good but difficult to understand".

"People will ask us what has the region got from the budget? Now one has to read the budget and then come up with an explanation," Khaire said.

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