Bihar moans 'empty-box' State gets few trains, but little else

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By AMIT BHELARI
  • Published 15.03.12
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Patna, March 14: Eight new express trains, a direct train to Kota in Rajasthan, which is frequented by Bihar students for IIT and medical entrance coaching, and a special train providing connection between Patna Sahib with Amritsar and Nanded, two other important places of religious importance for Sikhs — these are some of the major gains for Bihar in the rail budget presented by minister Dinesh Trivedi today.

The other gains for Bihar are completion of gauge conversion between Madhepura-Murligangj, Bairgania-Chauradano, Murliganj-Banmankhi and Katihar-Tejna, launching of gauge conversion work on the Banmankhi-Purnea, Saharsha-Sariaarh and Thawe-Chhapra sections, survey work for doubling of tracks between Muzaffarpur-Motihari Narkatiaganj-Gorakhpur, Darbhanga-Samastipur and Chhapra-Ballia-Mau-Azamgarh-Shahganj along with electrification.

Trivedi also announced doubling of tracks between Chhapra-Ballia and laying of a new track between Khagaria-Alauli, Harnagar-Kushweshwarstan, Chandi-Biharsharif and Kosi Bridge and completion of new tracks between Banka-Kakwara, Danapur-Patliputra, Daniwan-Chandi and Runisaidpur-Jubbasani.

He also announced survey work for new tracks between Barauni-Hasanpur via Bhagwanpur and Cheria Bariarpur, Jehanabad –Arwal via Kinjar and Raigarh-Gaya via Varanasi and Allahabad.

Six railway stations of Bihar would be upgraded as Adarsh Stations depicting the local ethos. These stations are Begusarai, Forbesganj, Jiradai, Jogbani, Thakurganj and Warsaliganj.

Trivedi informed that the dream of former railway minister Lalu Prasad had come true as the rail wheel plant at Chhapra has successfully produced 78 wheels during 2011-12. He also announced that the plant would be ready for full commissioning in 2012-13. The plant was announced by Lalu in the budget for 2004-2005.

However, the railway minister accepted that as many as 487 projects of new lines, gauge conversion, doubling and railway electrification are pending and he admitted that most of them cannot be completed. Several such projects are pending in Bihar also.

Nothing for Bihar is there in the list of new railway electrification projects or on that regarding new proposals sent to the Planning Commission regarding gauge conversion and surveys respectively. Bihar also does not figure in the list of projects being executed with state co-operation.

Though the list of gains might appear long, Bihar leaders are least impressed with the budget. Chief minister Nitish Kumar described the budget as an “empty box” that has promises for the future, “mystified in annexures”. Nitish, a former railway minister, said he had heard Trivedi’s speech on television and it was inordinately long. “When there is nothing much in the budget, one gives a long speech. The railway minister spoke for one hour and fifty minutes,” the chief minister observed.

Nitish said too much was being read into Trivedi’s plans on railway safety, which, he said, were all in the realms of the future. “During my tenure in the NDA regime, I had set up a railway safety corporate plan. Nothing has been said about what happened to the plan,” he remarked.

He said the railway minister has had to talk in the future tense about railway security and safety because the UPA government had failed to do anything about it. “Now the number of railway accidents is again going up,” he remarked, stressing that the budget had failed to give hope to passengers. “He (Trivedi) even sounded apologetic about hiking the fares. It is quite understandable that since the input price is shooting up, there will be a hike,” Nitish said.

Nitish expressed disappointment over pending railway projects in Bihar. “The projects in Bihar are progressing at a snail’s pace. If this is the scene only in Bihar, then Bihar is being discriminated against. If this is the scene throughout the country, it is a matter of great concern,” he said.

Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi termed the budget disappointing as it would put more financial burden on the common man. “From the time of Lalu Prasad, the condition of railways is deteriorating day by day and this is the reason why for the first time, the Indian government had to give a loan of Rs 3,000 crore to the railways,” he said.

The business community in Patna had reservations as well. President of the Bihar Chamber of Commerce (BCC) O.P. Sah said: “Bihar has been grossly neglected in the rail budget, which is a matter of concern. No emphasis has been given for expeditious completion of some very important ongoing railway projects in Bihar. This has created serious apprehension about the fate of important projects like the electric loco manufacturing unit at Madhepura and the new Diesel and Electric Modellers United shed at Sonepur.” Bihar Industries Association president KPS Keshri welcomed the emphasis on safety, but agreed with Sah that pending projects ought to have been completed.