Jeer and joy were two sides of the same coin for Jharkhand as Union minister Mallikarjun Kharge tabled his “passenger-friendly” interim Railway Budget in New Delhi on Wednesday.
While a section of people in Ranchi flayed and sulked at the “measly benefits” that came the capital’s way, residents of steel city Jamshedpur rejoiced over premium advantages it won by default. The Chotanagpur Passenger Association has announced a demonstration this week to push for more demands.
In his otherwise bouquet of goodies for the aam aadmi such as unchanged fares and SMS alert for waitlisted passengers, Kharge added only two new trains for Jharkhand.
While the Ranchi-New Jalpaiguri Express will run weekly via Jhajha and Katihar, Tatanagar will have a daily passenger train to Chakulia.
Chakradharpur, the highest freight revenue earning railway division in the country, has also received two premium AC trains as fringe benefit.
The bi-weekly Howrah-Pune Express and the Mumbai-Howrah Express will run via Tatanagar, confirmed Garden Reach, the Calcutta-based headquarters of South Eastern Railway (SER).
The Santragachi-Anand Vihar (Delhi) weekly express too is likely to travel via Tatanagar.
An SER spokesperson said the date of launching the new trains would be communicated later. He said that the Pune- and Mumbai-bound trains would also pass through Jharsuguda in Chakradharpur.
All eyes were glued to television sets from 11am as the Mango Man’s budget unfolded.
Disappointment crept in after Jharkhand realised that its requests to the railway ministry through top leaders like Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay and Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had fallen on deaf ears.
“Yeh to waisa hi hua ki khoda pahad nikli chuhia (a big budget yielded measly benefits),” said Ashok Nagpal, the president of Chotanagpur Passengers’ Association.
He continued: “Can anyone explain the purpose of the two trains given to us? We had demanded that some existing trains be extended. Also, rail links to business or spiritual destinations could have brought smiles.”
The association, Nagpal added, would protest and prompt MPs and ministers to forward their requests to Kharge.
Pawan Kumar Sharma, secretary-general of FJCCI, dubbed the budget a mockery. “For 13 years, we are seeing how politicians are playing with Jharkhand’s emotions and trust. We need fast trains to business hubs like Mumbai. We are dejected,” he said.
Venting his ire against past and present, Sharma further said: “We will not vote for political parties, but for an individual who can think of growth and sustainability.”
Ramesh Purwar, a technocrat based in Hyderabad who often comes to Ranchi to offer software solutions to different business houses, said it was unfortunate that Jharkhand was neither properly connected by air nor by rail.
Members of SCCI said the budget was both good and bad.
“We welcome the interim budget as Tatanagar got 3-4 trains, including two premium AC ones. But, we are unhappy that our demand for a direct train to Rajasthan has been overlooked,” said vice-president (PR and welfare) Vijay Anand Moonka. He also rued that the frequency of Tata-Yeshwantpur had not been increased.
State Congress chief Sukhdeo Bhagat said it was unfortunate that Jharkhand was not given any premium train.
What Ranchi got
Weekly express to New Jalpaiguri Express via Jhajha and Katihar
What Tatanagar got
*Daily passenger train to Chakulia
*Premium bi-weekly Howrah-Pune and Mumbai-Howrah trains to run via Tatanagar
*Santragachi-Anand Vihar (Delhi) weekly express may also cross steel hub