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Media Coverage

Mamata rolls out please-all budget
Lion’s share for her home state West Bengal

Girja Shankar Kaura/TNS

New Delhi, February 25
For the third year in a row, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee made an attempt to come out with the “aam aadmi” budget sparing the passengers and industry from fare and freight hikes and announcing the highest ever investment of Rs 57,630 crore, with 68 new trains.

Presenting her third Railway Budget in UPA-II in the Lok Sabha, Mamata vowed to build a stronger railroad infrastructure based on the Vision 2020 document while announcing a slew of concessions, including reducing the eligibility age of senior women citizens from 60 to 58 years and raising the fare concession for senior citizens (above 60) from 30 to 40 per cent.

The Railway Minister sought to reach out to the common man with announcements of allocating more money for safety, setting up of several industrial parks under the public-private model and starting new coach factories.

And apparently with an eye on the coming Assembly polls in West Bengal, she came out with a number of projects for the state, including a metro coach factory in Singur and 30 new trains.

Apart from new trains, the 2011-12 budget has sought to extend the services of 33 trains, increase frequencies of 17 others, conduct 107 line surveys to identify new routes, start double-decker trains on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes and introduce super AC class.

The budget also sought to extend the concession to physically challenged people to all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, besides extending facility of card passes to parents of unmarried posthumous Paramvir Chakra and Ashok Chakra gallantry award winners and make 50 per cent concession for mediapersons and families twice a year.

She also announced the launch of a multi-purpose pan-India smart card "Go India" for seamlessly paying for tickets for long distance, suburban and metro trains. The booking charges for AC as well as non-AC seats have been slashed by 50 per cent and online ticketing is all set to get cheaper. A new portal for e-tickets will levy a lower charge of Rs 10 for airconditioned and Rs 5 for other classes.

In her 90-minute speech, Mamata said, “In this budget, we have attempted to combine a strong economic focus with an equivalent emphasis on social inclusion with a humane face.” In the previous two budgets for the UPA government, Banerjee had announced 57 new trains in 2009-10 and another 54 a year later, without altering the freight or passenger fares. The budget estimates for 2011-12 project a freight loading of 993 million tonne and a passenger growth of 6.4 per cent. Ordinary working expenses have been estimated at Rs 73,650 crore and appropriation to depreciation reserve fund pegged at Rs 7,000 crore.

A provision of Rs 6,735 crore has been made for dividend payment and the excess for railways for the new fiscal has been projected at Rs 5,258 crore, with an operating ratio of 98.1 per cent. Gross traffic receipts have been fixed at Rs 94,840 crore, which is higher by Rs 75 crore over budget estimates. The ordinary working expenses have been fixed at Rs 67,000 crore. The next year's budget provides Rs 9,583 crore for new lines. A target of 1,300 km of new lines, 867 km of doubling of lines and 1,017 km of gauge conversion has been targeted.

Meanwhile, the budget evoked a positive response from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Hailing Mamata, he said no hike in freight and passenger fares would reduce inflation. “It is a common man's budget without increase in freight and passenger fares, thereby it will help to weaken cost push element of inflation," Manmohan Singh said. Indian Railways, the world’s second largest under a single management, has a network of 64,099 km to ferry as many as 18.9 million passengers on 7,000 trains daily from 6,906 stations. It also runs 4,000 freight trains to carry 850 million tonne of cargo.

Source Link: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20110226/main1.htm

02-26-2011 10:48 AM
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