The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Little to cheer in budget of smiles

Jalpaiguri, Feb. 24: The budget of smiles ' as railway minister Lalu Prasad described it ' has come as a big disappointment to the people of north Bengal.

Unlike the Northeast, however, the region can boast of at least one new train, a link of six bogies to connect Raiganj to Calcutta, but nothing more.

None of the demands made in the several charters ' from the extension of the rail route to Sealdah from Haldibari via Bangladesh to the increase in the number of local trains connecting Siliguri, Alipurduar, Malda and Balurghat ' submitted to the railways from time to time finds mention in the budget.

'There is nothing in the rail budget that will improve the existing railway services in this part of the state. We will soon launch a comprehensive demonstration programme against the freight corridor that will end in Bihar and not cover Bengal,' said Salil Acharya, a CPM district secretariat member.

The Jalpaiguri Sangrami Mancha (JSM), an apolitical body known for its movement against the proposed East-West Corridor, and members of Jalpaiguri Bar Association, too, have expressed dissatisfaction over the rail budget.

'Since the circuit bench will be inaugurated here soon, we had placed several demands. Beautification of Jalpaiguri town station and a separate train from Haldibari to Calcutta for the convenience of members of the judiciary were just a few of them,' said Gautam Pal, secretary of the JSM and the bar association.

The business community has blamed the Left for Lalu Prasad's alleged indifference.

'We feel it is the fault of the Left Front, which, even after being an ally of the UPA, failed to convince the rail minister. At a time when the state's projecting the region as industry-friendly, it should concentrate on improving transport facilities,' said Samarendra Prasad Biswas, general secretary of North Bengal National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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