February 25, 2011

Mamta's rail budget: populist - yes; 'people friendly' - doubtful; 'railways friendly' - no

Mamta Banerji's rail budget was expected to be populist and it is. No hike in fares and freight. In fact, in this age of high inflation, this dose of populism is welcome. Somehow, she has been more pan-Indian this time, and has been rather fair in allotting factories etc to other parts of the country than Bengal. Singur and Rae Bareli cannot be faulted too much. But she should also have been a bit more like a CEO; railways is after all a business concern.

Where Mamta is failing repeatedly is running railways like a leading business concern. It must be run that way,  or it will fail to shoulder its social responsibility as the largest and low-cost carrier of people across the country and economic responsibility as the largest frieght mover. The promises of last budget remain unfulfilled, and this budget does promise too much. India News Today feels that there are not enough finances, will or capacity with the railways to complete the numerous projects Mamta announced today.

Rail safety gets lip service as always and accidents do happen with higher death rates; passenger amenities at railway stations remain as bad; there is hardly any plan to tackle huge summer and festival rush; the scenes of thousands travelling on roof-top and bulging out of train doors will increase rather than lessen; touts will loot passengers as always, under the nose of top officers; the poor who travel in second class will continue to be treated like third-class citizens; pilferage, bribe-seeking and outright thefts of goods will continue to happen and so will the numerous ways of short-changing honest passengers, businesses and railways by rail staff and their accomplices.

If Mamta were really serious about making railways 'people friendly, she should have at least made the reservation system transparent and tweak services. It will not cost much but will generate more income for railways - the money going into cheats' and unscrupulous contractors' / vendors' pockets would go into railways' coffers.

Pl click here for India News Today's highlights of the railway budget and Mamta's quotes.

1 comment:

  1. Now wait for another Bengali. He will be more 'people friendly'.