Patna, Feb. 25: The railway budget has lost its charm in Bihar after three years of alleged neglect.
From politicians to investors, nobody has high hopes from the budget to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow. Compared to the golden years when Ram Vilas Paswan, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad headed the railway ministry, the funds allotment for projects in the state has been negligible.
“After seeing the railway budget for three successive years, I have no hope,” said deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi.
For a change, the Opposition is also on the same plane. Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, said: “I have been disenchanted with the railways ever since Laluji left. All his projects have been dumped. Even the Digha railway bridge over Ganga is yet to be completed.”
Chief minister Nitish Kumar also sounded disenchanted with the railway ministry. But his frustration dates back to the Lalu days.
“All the projects started in my tenure have been delayed. My successor (Lalu) delayed all the projects. Recently, I met railway minister Pawan Bansal and asked him to allot adequate funds for completion of the railway projects in Bihar, particularly the rail-cum-road bridges in Digha and Munger. If the projects are not completed on time, prices escalate and it becomes a burden on the railways. We also want new trains to be announced from Patna to Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and other places,” Nitish said.
The business community is also sceptical about the railway budget. “So much money has been pumped in to incomplete railway projects in Bihar. The railways should complete them because they are useless in their present status,” said Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Industries president P.K. Agarwal. He said the third line from Calcutta to New Delhi was essential to tackle the increased traffic.
During the “golden era”, railway ministers from Bihar boasted that they had pumped in projects of over Rs 60,000 crore in Bihar. Lalu had introduced the Patna-Chitpur Garib Rath and Vasco Express (a new train to Goa). He had also increased the frequency of trains to Bangalore, Chennai and some other places. His predecessor, Nitish, had introduced Rajdhani Express and Sampoorna Kranti Express.
After Lalu left the office, the decline in the state’s fortunes has been sharp. Not a single train from Patna has been introduced after Mamata Banerjee, now the Bengal CM, replaced Lalu in 2009. Mega projects like the Madhepura electric locomotive factory — estimated to cost Rs 1,400 crore — and the diesel engine factory at Marhaura in Chhapra — estimated to cost Rs 2,000 crore — are in a limbo. (See chart)