A critical analysis of the Indian Railway Budget, 2009
In the recently held Lok Sabha Elections, 2009 in India, Congress I was voted back to power. Congress I also made some impressive performances in the states like UP, West Bengal and Rajasthan and considerably improved its tally of MPs..
In the West Bengal, Congress I had an alliance with the Trinamul Congress whose leader Mamata Banerji was a die hard opponent of the ruling front headed by the CPI(M).The alliance had an impressive show in the state of West Bengal, signaling a threat to the CPI(M) front.
When the Congress I Ministry was sworn in, it also gave suitable cabinet berths to its allies in the Lok Sabha elections.Representing her party Trinamul Congress, Ms.Mamata Banerji was sworn as the Cabinet minister for Indian Railways.
On 03/07/2009,Ms.Mamata Banerji submitted the Indian Railway Budget, which is hailed as a populist budget for the following reasons:
1. No passenger fares have been hiked.
2. Freight charges have also been left undisturbed or untouched.
3. As many as 52 new railway projects have been announced.
4. Cheaper season tickets @ Rs 25 (around 50 cents) up to 100 km have been introduced.
5. Suburban trains exclusively meant for women will be introduced in the Metropolis like Chennai, Delhi and Kolkatta.
6. Student community will have their own sops like facilities of season tickets etc.
These are the highlights of the Indian Railway budget introduced by the Railway Minister Ms.Mamata Banerji. No doubt it is populist because there is no fare hike nor there is any hike in the freight charges. Despite of it, the budget envisages a surplus.But the credit of creating a surplus budget should go to the erstwhile Railway Minister Mr.Lalu Prasad Yadav, who had managed to submit a number of surplus railway budgets during his tenure as a Railway Minister, in the previous UPA government headed by the Congress I.
No doubt Ms.Mamata Banerji had justified the popular slogan of democracy through her Railway budget, ‘the Government of the People, By the people and For the People.
But in her zeal to do more for her home state of West Bengal, Ms.Mamata Banerji has committed a grave error in the Railway Budget. Out of the 52 new projects announced in the new Railway budget, 22 are meant for the state of West Bengal.It is a clear negation of the popular slogan ‘Government of the people, by the people and for the people.’
India is a federal state with as many as 30 states.All the new projects in any Railway budget have to be uniformly distributed among the states and in particular the states which remain backward and lagging behind should be given more preference.But Ms.Mamata Banerji completely ignored this aspect.On the other hand by allocating as many as 22 projects out of the total 52 new projects, she got herself exposed as self-centered and politically motivated.
Her design or intention in allocating as many as 42 % of the new Railway projects to her home state of West Bengal is with an eye on the assembly elections in the state in the year 2011.Backward states have been completely overlooked. The State of. Tamil Nadu has also expressed dissatisfaction over the Railway Budget, even though the ruling DMK is part of the Central Government.Mr.Lalu Prasad, the former Railway minister has also expressed his reservation over the Railway budget, on the allocation of Railway projects in particular.
Such partisan attitude of a Railway minister in allocating projects is a clear negation of the Federal set up of the Indian Government, besides paving the way for an unequal distribution of the new projects among the Indian states.
If the present trend of allocating the lion’s share in favour of a particular state continues, just because the Railway Minister hails from that state, it does not augur well for the well being of India.On the other hand, future Railway Ministers will also follow the path of Ms.Mamata Banerji.It also means, a state which really remains backward has to wait for a Railway minister who hails from the respective state.
It seems that Ms.Mamata Banerji’s sole aim is to capture power in West Bengal and to become its Chief Minister.Then some other person has to become a Railway Minister of India to set right the unequal distribution of projects, which have been done wantonly.