Hajipur, Oct. 1: “This is railway minister Nitish Kumar from Hajipur. Is the station master of Harnaut on the line'”
“Please wait. Let me search the station master out,” said an official at Harnaut station in Nitish’s constituency.
“Is the station master missing,” Nitish asked over the telephone as the few thousands assembled here burst into laughter. “Please start the new reservation centre and get people to buy tickets,” the minister said, before thanking the people of Harnaut.
Nitish was extremely busy today attending programmes to mark the first anniversary of East-Central Railway, controversially carved out of Eastern Railway last year. Teleconferencing of projects and announcing new trains and development projects for the state dominated his itinerary.The minister also found time to round on his critics.
Pointing to the “successful run” of the new railway zone, Nitish thanked those who had slammed the bifurcation, saying it would lead to the “Hajipurisation” of Indian Railways.
“A year ago, I was the target of attack by some politicians and retired railway officers who blamed me for starting the Hajipurisation of Indian Railway. They approached the Prime Minister also for stalling this. Looking back today, I think my critics’ fears had no basis,” the minister said.
Without mentioning Mamata Banerjee, who had vehemently opposed the bifurcation of Eastern Railway, Nitish said his “political detractors” would fall silent if they assessed the new zone’s performance in its first year and its contribution to the growth of railway revenue.
The minister said the railway had set a freight target of 540 million tonnes this year, up from 510 last year. Freight levels had already touched 518 million tonnes with three months still to go, thanks to the contribution of the East-Central Railway, Nitish said.
He added that the 540 million tonnes figure would be surpassed if current levels of performance continued.
“I was never into politics while running the railway ministry. I was just ‘operationalising’ an old plan of Indian Railway,” Nitish said, referring to the 1996 cabinet decision to bifurcate the railway. The minister made much of the “unexpected increase of freight in the new zone” and proceeded to set a record of sorts by inaugurating 25 new railway projects in Bihar today, stretching from Patna to Hajipur.