The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chug chug turnip train
- Vegetable coaches from Bihar, healthcare without doctors next door

Patna, June 6: Laloo Prasad Yadav’s gravy train will travel loaded with vegetables, he has promised.

The railway minister — not of Bihar, as he has declared, but of all of India — intends to hitch special coaches to trains heading to Delhi and Calcutta that will carry vegetables from his home state.

“Not only will our poor farmers be able to extend their trade and get higher prices for their produce, but the people of the two cities can also enjoy fresh vegetables,” he said.

Difficult to fault the reason or the rhyme — rich cities feed on fresh lady’s fingers grown by poor farmers of Bihar. Why didn’t some other railway minister, sitting as they do in the driver’s seat of one of the greatest vehicles of development in history, think of this'

Many of them, like Laloo Prasad, came from Bihar and only thought of new lines or trains or at best — such as immediate predecessor Nitish Kumar — setting up regional railway headquarters in their backyard. Not that splitting Eastern Railway to establish a hub at Hajipur — other than the traditional one in Calcutta — helped him in Barh. Kumar lost the seat but won from Nalanda.

Gravy trains, those that carry concessions, they ran too. Nothing else is expected from rail ministers. But since taking charge, Laloo Prasad has been making suggestions that are, well, innovative.

First he said instead of plastic cups, earthen pots will be used on the railways to serve tea or coffee — apparently this is already being done in places in Bihar. He hinted at the possibility of extending his environment-friendliness to food packets — use leaves, he said.

Now, the brinjal bogie.

It’s not that the minister doesn’t care about the railways’ core responsibility of ensuring safe, punctual and clean travel.

Yesterday, he travelled by a special train from Chhapra, one of the two seats from where he won the election, on an inspection tour, it seems. The journey may have been by a “special train”, he said, but that did not deter him from alighting at several stations to check the facilities out.

He told party legislators at a meeting later that his agenda would be to make the railways clean and punctual.

Safety is quite something else. The minister’s trip followed by a few days another of those routine train dacoities in Bihar on the Doon Express bound for Calcutta. Trains from Bihar carrying radishes rather than robbers might be a preferred option for many.

Before taking off for Delhi, Laloo Prasad emphasised that he meant every word he said. The ministry has already been directed to make provisions for special vegetable coaches.

India does not begin and end in Bihar — he emphasised that too. Laloo Prasad said he was equally concerned about states “which have failed to get enough railway benefits since Independence”.

He promised to assess the conditions in these states and review projects in consultation with MPs of these states. From the response in his state, it appears the minister could get into some unexpected trouble there.

If vegetable growers are to get their own coaches, why not the Yadavs — Laloo Prasad’s own caste of milkmen'

“Why don’t we demand special AC coaches to transport milk, doesn’t he (Laloo Yadav) know milk gets spoilt in the heat'” vendors were overheard speaking at Patna Junction last night.

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