The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Absence blow to DHR fest
- Lalu Prasad expresses inability to attend meet

Siliguri, Aug. 21: Eighteen-year-old Miraj Biswakarma does not know what to do with the model toy train that he had made, now that the railway minister has informed that he will not be able to attend the 125th anniversary of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR).

With Lalu Prasad planning to stay away from the programme on Wednesday, the celebrations have lost much of their appeal. Biswakarma, for instance, had been working on his model for the past one year. “I wanted to gift my creation to the railway minister and for the past one year, I had been waiting for the right moment. But then, it is my ill fate that he won’t be here,” said the resident of Tindharia.

The railways had announcement on August 9 that the minister would attend the “gala ceremony”. Since then, people had been looking forward to his famous one-liners — Jab tak rahega samose main alu, tab tak rahega rail main Lalu. Senior railway officials too agree that the programme will not be the same without the minister.

“He undoubtedly would have been the centre of attraction. But due to the monsoon session in Parliament, he has cancelled his trip,” said Taraknath Bhattacharjee, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR)’s public relations officer at New Jalpaiguri.

He said the general manager of the NFR, A.K. Sanawalka, accompanied by railway board members, would be present at Siliguri Junction at 9 am on Wednesday when three trains — attached to vintage steam engines — will be flagged off on the broad, metre and narrow gauge tracks.

The minister’s intimation has disappointed DHR officials too. They had expected that the minister’s presence would make a difference to the loss-making DHR, especially since Lalu Prasad has already turned the Indian Railways into a profit-making body.

“The DHR, at present, is incurring an annual loss of Rs 6 crore,” an official of the DHR said. When contacted, DHR director N. Srinivas refused to comment on whether the minister’s absence has robbed the meet of its appeal. He, however, said no one from the DHR Society of London would be present at the programme.

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