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Big-ticket projects wait for funds

Patna, Feb. 26: The opposition RJD today joined the ruling JD(U)-BJP alliance in slamming the railway ministry for “total disregard” of Bihar in its budget.

“The budget is woefully disappointing. It has neglected a backward state like Bihar once again, keeping several of its projects, including bridges at Digha and Munger, in abeyance despite my specific request to allocate funds for them,” chief minister Nitish Kumar, also a former railway minister, said.

Nitish said that on one hand, railway minister P.K. Bansal has claimed to have tabled a surplus budget while on the other, he has curtailed funds for the ongoing projects. “Probably, the minister concerned has described the curtailed fund as surplus revenue,” Nitish said. “He (the minister) has bluffed the people in general and Bihar in particular.”

Sources close to the chief minister detailed how the budget has neglected Bihar. “There were 26 ongoing projects of railway lines in Bihar. But funds have been curtailed on every project. For instance, Rs 118 crore was required to complete the Hajipur-Sugauli railway line as per the survey assessment. But the budget for 2013-14 has allocated only Rs 20 crore for it, making it well nigh impossible to carry on work on it. Similarly, Rs 180 crore has been allocated against the requirement of Rs 640 crore for the Digha-Pahleja rail bridge on the Ganga,” said a top source, who declined to be named.

The chief minister said he failed to understand why Bansal was talking about MNREGA funds for building rail over-bridges. “It appears that the railway minister is not aware of the technical difficulties in using MNREGA funds for the railway projects,” Nitish said. “How can he use MNREGA funds allotted to states for employment generation for local level work in railway projects?”

For the first time in years, the state had to contend with a budget presented by a minister not hailing from the east. Bihar has had several powerful railway ministers such as Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan and has been known to receive a “fair deal”.

Nitish was even appreciative of his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee — the first railway minister of UPA-II — when she presented her budget in 2010. “The railway budget is praiseworthy,” Nitish had been quoted as saying then.

“No railway minister after Independence has ignored Bihar the way Bansal has. His budget is directionless and will endanger the condition of the common people,” deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said, while suggesting that Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan stop supporting the Manmohan Singh government or enlighten the people why Bihar had been neglected.

“Bihar has got only one out of 136 projects of doubling of railway tracks across the country and six insignificant trains. This is a mockery of a big state like Bihar,” he said.

Singing in tune with Nitish and Modi, leader of Opposition in the Assembly Abdul Bari Siddiqui described the budget as “directionless and disappointing”. “The budget is silent on all railway projects initiated during the tenure of Lalu Prasad as railway minister,” Siddiqui said. “No funds provision has been made for the coach and wheel factories sanctioned at Marhaura, Sonepur and Madhepura.”

 


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