Former railway ministers unimpressed by Prabhu's budget

New Delhi


Suresh Prabhu's maiden railway budget Thursday failed to impress six of his predecessors in the ministry, who called the proposals "repetitive", "just an idea" and even "anti-people".

Pawan Bansal, Prabhu's immediate predecessor, said the National Democratic Alliance government's railway budget only repeated the proposals put forth in the documents placed in the previous years by the former United Progressive Alliance regime.

"It has only taken forward the proposals put forth in our railway budgets. It's repetitive...," he said.

He claimed that then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi way back in the 1980s had underlined the Information Technology proposals that the present railways budget has mentioned.

"It would have been good had he (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) done something in the nine months of his government," Bansal said.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who served two terms in the railway ministry (1998-99 and 2011-2004), expressed disappointment at the budget not proposing any reduction in passenger fares despite the fall in diesel prices.

"Expectation was that rail fares would be cut, but that didn't happen,," he saidA

Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi, who had a short but eventful eight-month stint in the railway ministry (2011-12), called the budget "just an idea, a dream".

"It's like saying I'll go to the moon. It's just an idea, a dream. What is important is how you will reach there. It's all futuristic," he said.

Trivedi said there was now about 50 percent shortfall in railway finances and expressed fears that the railways could go the Air India way because its "coffers are empty".

Trivedi had to resign from the railway ministry at the dictates of his party chief Mamata Banerjee after he raised the passenger fares in his budget.

Banerjee, who was railway minister on two occasions (1999-2001 and 2009-2011), dubbed the proposals "anti-people and anti-development" and designed to "fool the people".

"They are trying to make a fool of the people. They are claiming the budget has not hiked passenger fares. But they increased passenger fares after they came to power last year."

She said while the diesel prices reduced six-seven times in the past one year, the railway fares have not been cut even once.

"The decrease in diesel prices six-seven times in the past year should have been accompanied by a decrease in railway fares. But that has not been done. And they now are claiming credit for not upping the railway fares," she said.

Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge called the budger "much ado about nothing".

"It is a craftily worded Budget. Just like 'much ado about nothing'. It is a well worded speech. But the budget has no plans for generating the resources.

He said Prabhu did not spell out how the "good ideas" would be executed and failed to come out with an independent revenue model.

"How will you execute them if you have no money in your pockets?" asked Kharge, who held the railway portfolio for over 11 months (June 2013-May 2014).

On the railway budget not announcing any new train, Kharge said the present government was only worried "about Mumbai-Ahmedabad train".

"Because, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is from Ahmedabad and Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu is from Mumbai. What about others? Other states? One planned bullet train won't cover entire India."

Lalu Prasad, railway minister in the first UPA government (2004-09), said the condition of the railways was now "very bad".

"The present government should concentrate on completing the pending projects. The ports should be connected by railway network. But what is the government doing?" he asked. - IANS