The first real test of PM Manmohan singh’s Team India 2009 was staged today with the humble didi of the Bengal , Mamata Banerjee presenting her maiden railway budget. With expectations high and a big shoe to fill in , with her predecessor Lalu Prasad Yadav , literally making the greatest turnaround in the history of Indian Railway and filling the railway coffers with unprecedented profit to the range of Rs 25K crores.
Didi reached parliament in her Maruti Zen ( she has refused the government provided big car) , draped in cotton sari and carrying her trademark Jhola ( cotton sling bag ) instead of the leather briefcase preferred by her predecessors. Utterly butterly , picture perfectly desi style !
So what did the budget has in store ? Lets see.
No hike in passenger fares, freight charges – Well , She is after all people friendly minister and with election round the corner in West Bengal she cannot take chance , right ? After all , she is almost in sight of the impossible – Dethroning the Red Brigade in the Bengal fort.
Tatkal scheme to be reduced from 5 days to 2 days – Tatkal is supposed to be for emergency booking right ? so she has felt 2 days advance period is enough for it . Hmmm .. fair enough , i feel.
Rs 1,102 crore allocated towards improving passenger amenities – Well India has always spend crores and crores for public welfare but most of them doing a vanishing act ! Didi , make sure there is no Houdini out here !
One doctor to be posted on each long distance train – Good decision . I once got an asthmatic attack on train and had to bear 32 hour journey with no doctors around !
SMS updates for wait-listed passengers – No more calls , no more computer log in , life is made easier with SMS update for the seat status ! Good to see , government agencies keeping in pace with technologies.
200 automatic vending machines at key stations for selling tickets – Some relief from long queues !
Discounts , Discounts and more discounts –
- For press correspondents discounts increased from 30% to 50% and discount of 60% on fare, if they travel with spouse – Smart Didi ! Knows how important the press is in her quest for Bengal dreams !
- Student concession to be extended to madarssa students – Strategy to wean away the already thinning Muslim support base of communists in West Bengal.
- Student concession of 60 percent on Kolkata Metro – On track to win the capital !
50 mobile rail ticket vans to be introduced – Unnecessary expenditure in my personal opinion.
ATMs on 200 mid and small-sized stations – Banks would be paying rent right ? If then , why not ? Could make it more number of stations too. Railways do have lots of floor space in their disposal.
Integrated security scheme for 140 vulnerable stations – Much needed in this time of terror.
Setting up of a 1,000 MW power plant – We are a perpetually energy deprived nation and any amount of extra energy is welcome !
“Janta khana" (peoples’ food) at railway stations – Hope it is tasty too. The worst food i ever have had is in Indian trains.
50 world class stations – Plans on card through public-private participation model. The Indian railway stations even in the metro cities are an horrible experience and screams for attention and renovation. Hope the plans becomes reality at the earliest. Also she has assured that 309 stations will be upgraded with modern facilities.
Spreading the wings : Railways plans to open nursing colleges and medical colleges ! Railways have abundant land bank and surplus cash , so making use of it.
Rs 25 Monthly pass : For employees of unorganized sector with income below Rs 1500 to travel short distances up to 100 km . Aam Admi special package !
12 new A/c trains between metros : Much needed. I wish the speed of the trains are increased too.