While state BJP was quick to laud the Rail Budget — presented by Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu before Parliament on Thursday — the ruling Trinamool Congress and CPM and Congress described it as being full of gimmicks.
Samik Bhattacharya, the lone BJP MLA in the state Assembly, termed it as a people’s Budget. “The Budget will give safety and security to the commuters and also add momentum to the country’s development. Fares have not been raised, which will help people,” Bhattacharya told mediapersons.
He added that passenger amenities like insurance by LIC, rail mobile application, bio toilets in trains, CCTV surveillance in compartments and reserving lower berths for senior citizens (50 per cent) and women (30 per cent), will go a long way in serving commuters.
On no new projects being announced for Bengal, Bhattacharya said, “The overambitious announcements made by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee when she was the Railways minister needs to materialise first. This is why not many new projects have been announced. The minister (Prabhu) has rightly focussed on the East West Metro Rail project and freight corridor.”
Trinamool, however, gave a big thumbs down to the Budget. “The Railway Budget is a big zero. Last year, it had no depth, This year too… nothing new at all. Freight rates and passenger fares were increased earlier. Zero plus zero equals zero,” said Trinamool spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’ Brien.
Former Rail minister and Trinamool leader Dinesh Trivedi described the Budget as being “full of illusions”.
CPM MP Mohammed Selim, meanwhile, said real challenges have not been addressed in the Budget. “This Budget involves a lot of phrases and looks straight out of a management school… Real challenges like connecting remote villages and reaching far off areas have been left out… No effort to expand rail network has been undertaken,” he claimed.
“The focus is on potential investors… how to create business opportunities for them. Safety of the people have not been ensured but instead, an insurance company has been roped in for business, against which Railways will get a commission,” he added.
Selim also criticised the ruling party, claiming that Trinamool MPs have not said anything on these issues in Parliament. Referring to the East West Metro Rail, he said: “Had it not been for Chief Minster Mamata Banerjee’s personal ego and narrow politics, there was no reason for the people to wait till 2018 to avail the service.”
Questioning the announcement of a first auto hub to come up in Chennai, Selim said: “Mamata Banerjee as the Railways minister had announced an auto hub at Shalimar. What is its status now? If the Shalimar project had started, then this cannot be the first auto hub. And if the Chennai hub is the first one, then we will have to admit that Mamata had announced the Shalimar hub just for the sake of announcing.”
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury too said the Budget had skipped core issues. “I used to think Suresh Prabhu is intelligent. Now, I have found out that he is happy appeasing Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” He added that the Modi government had spoken about bullet trains and made several other tall promises but nothing had materialised. “Bengal has been deprived in the Budget, he said.