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Laloo pushes for poor, AC or no

New Delhi, May 25: Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav today told officials not to raise fares for sleeper and suburban passengers.

In a meeting with senior railway board officials, the minister directed them to ready a special package for these two categories in the rail budget expected to be tabled in July-end. The meeting was held as part of preparation for the budget.

Sources present at the meeting said Laloo Prasad was emphatic that the poorer sections should not be neglected in the budget.

While every railway minister before him has taken the line that the poor should not be ignored, Laloo Prasad has gone a step further and sought a special package for them. “The minister wants a special package that will include either lowering or retaining existing suburban and sleeper class passenger tariff. When it was pointed out that the fares were already being subsidised, he said the package has to be there even if it means a hike in airconditioned fares across the board,” a railway board official said.

“We will be preparing the package within this month and it will be discussed soon with the minister,” a source said.

Laloo Prasad, who held meeting with several officials, asked about the fate of the Prakash Tandon Committee report that was prepared when C.K. Jaffer Sharief was railway minister. He also wanted to know why the proposal to set up an Indian Railway Management Services has not been explored.

A source said: “He has asked officials to quickly present the Prakash Tandon Committee report and the deliberations on it.”

The report had argued that in case of an accident, it is difficult to fix responsibility as there are more than 10 departments involved with 16 lakh employees from different services (such as electrical, engineering and civil). It had proposed that the departments be dismantled and work centralised under an Indian Railway Management Services.

Laloo Prasad has asked the railway board to meet police chiefs and home secretaries of Naxalite-hit states to develop comprehensive measures to ensure safe movement of trains. He also asked the board to take steps to make rail tracks tamper-proof to ensure smooth train services and uninterrupted movement of coal and other mineral products.

On taking charge yesterday, the minister had said safety of passengers would be a top priority with him. He had also promised to ensure that trains run on time and corruption is wiped out of the railway. Making all the right noises, Laloo Prasad promised a clean and green railway, where tea and coffee would be served in earthen cups and food possibly in sal leaves.

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