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Steel hubs smile, sulk at same time

The 2014 railway budget evoked mixed reactions from Jharkhand’s twin steel cities.

If Jamshedpur was a tad glad with a new train link to the south but unhappy over other unmet demands, Union minister D.V. Sadanand Gowda won both pro-women bouquets and anti-poor brickbats from Bokaro.

Though the budget promised little for Chakradharpur division — the highest freight revenue earner under South Eastern Railway — it harped on the Narendra Modi government’s acche din punch line by announcing a direct weekly train between Tatanagar and Baiyyappanahali, near Bangalore.

“The existing Tatanagar-Yeshwantpur Express (weekly) is unable to cater to the rush of passengers, especially students and patients. We had, on several occasions, requested the authorities to increase frequency of the train. Now, introducing a new train on the same route will immensely benefit passengers,” said Vijay Anand Moonka, vice-president of Singhbhum Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and chairman of the trade outfit’s railway committee.

Authorities at SER’s Garden Reach headquarters said the new weekly would run on Wednesdays or Thursdays.

The railway budget also announced two other new links — the Hatia-Rourkela Passenger and a DEMU train between Sambalpur and Rourkela (six days a week). Both will run via Chakradharpur division. The budget bouquet also includes railway connectivity to iron ore mines between Nayagarh in Odisha and Banspani in West Singhbhum.

The SCCI gave thumbs down to the budget because it did not have any mention of the long-pending Kandra-Namkum line. “We had hoped that the Modi government would take up the important project, which could reduce travel time between Ranchi and Jamshedpur by over an hour. Also, all our other demands like trains to Jaipur and Hyderabad, and an AC one to Howrah remain pending,” said Suresh Sonthalia, the SCCI president.

The Chotanagpur Passenger Association, however, hailed the budget for promising better reservation systems and recruitment of RPF women constables for safety of fair passengers. “Getting tickets online is a huge hassle. The announcement that the railways would handle 7,000 bookings a minute is a relief. Moreover, recruitment of 4,000 women constables will ensure safer travel for the fair sex,” said U.K. Srivastava, a senior functionary.

Bokaro chamber of commerce president Manoj Kumar Chowdhry has dubbed the budget anti-Jharkhand and pro-rich, but former women’s commission chairman Hemlata S. Mohan has given thumbs up to safer travel and quality food initiatives.

“The Modi government and railway minister Gowda have cheated the poor, giving next to nothing to our underdeveloped state. Despite Adra division being a big revenue earner, Bokaro has been neglected,” Chowdhry said.

Mohan contradicted, saying the budget had taken very bold steps. “The drive to ensure quality food and cleanliness, as well as sparing a thought for women’s security are commendable,” she said.


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