| Lalu Prasad |
Lalu Prasad seems to have lost interest in two ambitious projects he dreamt of while he was the railway minister during UPA-I.
The Union cabinet on Monday cleared the projects — diesel locomotive factory in Marhaura, Saran district, and electric locomotive factory in Madhepura.
However, Lalu was hardly enthusiastic. “The Union government has just kept my projects ‘alive’. The projects are still under private-public partnership (PPP) mode and the cabinet approval is just for the technical bid. The projects have gone on bid under the PPP mode before. There was hardly any taker. Given the economic conditions of the railways after I left, I doubt they will be able to find any bidder this time also,” he told The Telegraph on Tuesday.
The estimated cost of the factory in Madhepura is pegged at over Rs 1,293 crore and in Marhaura at Rs 2,052 crore.
Over a 10-year period, the factories are expected to provide the railways with 800 electric locomotives of 12,000 horse power each and a mix of 1,000 diesel locomotives of 4,500 and 6,000 horse power. The railways has already invested large sums in acquiring land for these factories.
The cabinet hoped that the factories would “attract significant foreign investment with concomitant availability of internally generated resources for other railway projects.”
Lalu has blamed his successor and present Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for playing spoil sport in these projects. “I had wanted the railways to fund these projects. She is the one who put these in the PPP mode,” Lalu added.
Both Saran and Madhepura are politically very important districts for Lalu as he had represented both in the Lok Sabha. Both these constituencies have large population of his caste men and his core voters — the Yadavs.
As railway minister, Lalu announced two railway factories for Saran and one for Madhepura. Of the three, only one — railway wheel manufacturing factory — is on trial run.
Another railway factory in Harnaut in Nalanda, the home district of Lalu’s predecessor and present chief minister Nitish Kumar, is a coach maintenance factory, which is almost complete but yet to start.
The factory was started by Nitish as railway minister, but under-funded during Lalu’s regime. Mamata was more generous in funding the Harnaut factory than the factories started by Lalu.
Till 2009, Bihar had the good luck of having three railway ministers in succession — Ram Vilas Paswan, Nitish and Lalu. The ministry was used to project themselves as the leaders who meant to develop Bihar. All the three had announced mega railway projects for the state. Lalu claimed that he had sanctioned projects worth Rs 75,000 crore for the state. However, Bihar lost its privileged status in the railways after 2009 and many of the projects are incomplete and delayed because of sanctioning adequate funds.