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Laloo prefers plane, deputies differ

New Delhi, June 1: Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav is flying down to Calcutta later this month. His lieutenants — ministers of state R. Velu and Naranbhai Rathwa — will, however, take the train.

The occasion: the annual awards function of the railways at Salt Lake on June 16, which will be the first important official function to be presided over by Laloo Prasad after assuming office.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 officials of the various railway zones are expected to attend.

There may or may not be a touch of the whimsical in Laloo Prasad’s mode of travel: most of his predecessors have preferred to take the train when attending a railway function.

But Laloo Prasad’s deputies will have no reason to complain: he has decided to raise the spending limit for the two ministers of state to Rs 80 crore each. This should keep Velu of the PMK and the Congress’ Rathwa happy.

His predecessor, Nitish Kumar, had allocated Rs 40 crore each to his deputies while Ram Vilas Paswan and Mamata Banerjee had allocated Rs 15 crore. Till 1991, the minister of state was given a spending limit of just Rs 10 crore.

Out of the Rs 80 crore limit for the junior ministers, about Rs 40 crore is expected to be used for plan development. The remaining Rs 40 crore will be raised from the sale and disposal of scrap and used for other development work.

The two ministers will share responsibilities in matters relating to promotions and transfers of Group B and C staff.

The railway minister is expected to meet Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and attend a public function in the city to address migrant labourers from Bihar.

“The minister will reach Calcutta in the morning to attend the function and leave in the evening. He is also expected to attend a local meeting but the schedule is yet to be finalised. We have no information yet on whether he will call on the West Bengal chief minister or any other senior minister. This will be known only next week,” a source said.

Railway personnel across the country will receive awards for meritorious service at the function. Awards will be given to railway officials sacrifice their lives in the course of duty.

“This year, too, the awards would be given in all categories but a special award will be given for those who have done good work on safety and security-related matters. The function was to be held in April but due to election it was extended to June,” said a Railway Board official.

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