Banerjee: Raring to go
New Delhi, June 17: Rail minister Mamata Banerjee is planning to unfurl a slew of innovative projects in the forthcoming rail budget.
On her agenda are solar-powered railway stations, captive power plants, public-private partnership projects, innovative use of railway land, and industrial and cargo hubs along the planned east-west freight corridor.
Among those who met her recently in the run-up to the budget are Ficci secretary-general Amit Mitra and Nitish Sengupta, who heads the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises and was a Trinamul Congress MP.
I cant comment on the budget. But let me say this: she is very, very progressive in her thinking. Last time when she was the minister for the railways, she was instrumental in building Indias first private port at Pipavav in Gujarat, said Dinesh Trivedi, the minister of state for health and a Trinamul MP.
Mamata was the railway minister for one-and-a-half years during the NDA regime (1999-2004) and had presented the rail budget in 2000.
US and Australian teams are advising the railways on its massive Rs 90,000cr modernisation and expansion programme, which include the east-west corridor project, port connectivity, major bridges, automated railway crossings and upgraded signalling facilities.
The Rs 43,000cr freight corridor will be from Ludhiana in Punjab to Dankuni in Bengal and is expected to be at the heart of the commercial proposals in the budget. It will not only have cargo corridors but also create industrial corridors in five states. Once completed, it would create one contiguous stretch of immense development in heartland India, a Railway Board member said.
I see her as someone with a vision clear enough to accept and absorb cutting-edge technology. Its remarkable how she has been able to integrate the visions of a tech savvy CEO with that of a political leader who has the interests of the common man in mind, said Amit Mitra.
Mamata is weighing solar panels for stations in remote areas, while captive power plants through joint ventures were on her agenda even during her first tenure.
According to the Planning Commission, this can cut power costs by as much as 50 per cent.
She always had a proper business sense. She has long been trying to eliminate the neo-colonial style of functioning in the railways and bring in proper business ethics in its functioning, said Nitish Sengupta.
Railway officials said captive power plants could be set up in eastern India at coal-pit heads as the states of Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa abound with coal mines.
However, all the high-tech business plans are unlikely to deflect Mamata from her Maa, mati, manush agenda. Better train services, cleaner stations, railway passes for the poor and new trains and lines for Bengal will figure prominently in her budget.