| Nitish Kumar arrives in Parliament to present the interim railway budget. (PTI)
New Delhi, Jan 30: The election-eve gravy train has started rolling — and though there are no revisions in freight and fares — railway minister Nitish Kumar announced a new set of fast trains to 17 state capitals from Delhi and created a war chest of Rs 20,000 crore to provide links to remote and backward regions in the next five years to generate over three lakh jobs.
Kumar, who flagged down the BJP-led government’s Election Express, said the NDA would come back to power to fulfil the promises it had made to make train journeys safe and hassle-free.
He presented a Rs 26,000-crore vote-on-account to take care of the expenditure of the railway ministry for four months from April 1 to July 31 because the polls have been advanced.
The 17 new trains will be called Sampark Kranti Express to provide quicker connectivity from states to the national capital. These trains will not halt anywhere once they cross the state borders and will have a dedicated staff throughout the journey and a public address system.
The first such train — called Karnataka Sampark Kranti Express — will run between Delhi and Bangalore on February 8. Initially, the train will operate three days a week and from October 2 daily.
Kumar said: “Out of about 230 projects worth about Rs 43,000 crore (to provide rail links to remote areas), many projects with socio-economic considerations will not be completed over the next five years. This will be undertaken through Remote Area Rail Sampark Yojana with an additional outlay of Rs 20,000 crore.”
Kumar hopes to offer employment to about three lakh people each year during the construction period and permanent employment to 18,000 people each year for maintenance and operations on an incremental basis. In addition, he hopes that there will be indirect employment for 55,000 people a year.
The minister said the railways would seek to emerge as one of the best in the world with high safety standards by 2007.
“The Indian Railways are well set to achieve substantial reduction in consequential train accidents per million train kilometres from 0.44 in 2002-03 to 0.30 in the next four years, which will be one of the best standards obtained in the world’s leading railways,” he said.
As a first step, the contribution to the Special Railway Safety Fund has been increased by Rs 40 crore in the revised budget estimate to Rs 2,351 crore from the earlier estimate of Rs 2,311 crore.
Kumar gave finance minister Jaswant Singh something to cheer in the form of a Rs 3,305-crore dividend to the government. He topped it with Rs 300 crore, clearing some of the deferred dividend liability of the past.