A promising but populist rail budget

The Railway Budget was near perfect. I have never seen such a budget earlier. Mr Laloo Prasad has proved that you donít have to be an economist or loaded with foreign degrees to produce a sound budget. What is required is genuine concern for the masses and a rustic common sense, which Laloo has in abundance.

His idea of kulhars, khadi, lassi etc., in the trains is also very novel and will generate rural employment. Thatís what is grassroot development which India needs most. Laloo has won hearts of the real India.

As citizens, we also have a responsibility. Privileges given by the Railway Minister in the budget to the underprivileged class should not be misused. And let each one of us make positive contribution by talking and acting positively rather than indulging in empty criticism.

Col R.D. Singh, Ambala Cantt


To a lay man, the Railway Budget is very promising and good, but it is only a populist gimmick meant to help the loss-making states like Bihar and UP. This budget does not propose any new trains or facilities for the profit-making states.



Mumbai, which is a gold mine for the railways, does not get any new train or facility. Punjab, which is another money-spinning state, where air-conditioned trains are the most profitable in the whole nation does not get any new train or facility. Three new railway lines, including Chandigarh-Ludhiana, Goindwal Sahib-Beas and Fazilka-Abohar were approved by the previous NDA government. Barring Chandigarh-Ludhiana, work on no other line has been included in this budget.

Bihar, which is known for its ticketless travel, has been rewarded heavily with many new trains. This budget is devoid of any knowledge of economics. Just wait for a few more months, the Central Government shall have to pump in a lot of money to pay for the follies of Laloo. It will increase the federal deficit and will fuel inflationary trends. Whatever pragmatism was shown by the NDA government has been thrown to the wind by this king of sops and cheap gimmickry. Poor Manmohan Singh will get a lot of sleepless nights due to this experimentation in wastage. God help Indian Railways.

Monmouth Junction,
New Jersey (USA)

Tainted ministers

There is a hue and cry over the tainted ministers having been inducted in the ministry. The very functioning of Parliament is being jeopardised. One fails to understand why can't the matter be put to rest by issuing instructions to the concerned courts to expedite their verdict in the cases of such ministers and put an end to the ongoing controversy. Let the guilty be removed and the innocent allowed to continue.


Justice to defence

The Finance Minister has done justice to the armed forces by allotting Rs 77,000 crore in the 2004-05 Budget. The hike was needed for modernisation and to maintain the edge in combat power. The onus is now on the Army to fully utilise the allotted funds and not surrender. However, I wish Mr Chidambaram had stuck to the NDA's decision of non-lapsable Rs 25,000 crore Defence Modernisation Fund. It was a sound decision based on ground realities.

Ambala Cantt

Indecent objection

Defence Minister Pranab Mukerjee could perhaps not resist his frustration for not being offered the post of Prime Minister when he broke all norms of decency by publicly criticising the allocations for defence in the Budget. His act is even against the principles of collective responsibility of the Cabinet and may prove harmful for a sensitive ministry like Defence.

Instead of approaching the media, he should have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister. On the contrary, former Foreign Minister Yeshwant Sinha exhibited grace and maturity by endorsing the budgetary allocation for defence and rightly appealing to all to keep the issue above party politics in national interest.


City Ugly

Chandigarh is fast becoming City Ugly. Almost everyday, we read about deaths in road accidents or due to negligence. Stray cattle continue to create havoc on the roads because we have least regard for human beings. We are also at fault while driving. If one observes people driving on the Chandigarh roads, it looks they are in a great hurry. They overlook turnings, roundabouts, blind turns and speed limits.

A large number of rickshaw-pullers and auto-rickshaw drivers have bad road sense. Many of them don't have a valid license and are new to the road. The traffic police is trying to deal with the menace, but it isn't getting upgraded facilities. Emphasis should be laid on building small roads or lanes that are exclusively for two wheelers, rickshaws and bicycles.


Unfair to Nagas

My attention has been drawn to the report "Al-Qaida connection spells danger in North-East", carried in The Tribune on July 12. I hasten to point out a wrong statement.

In para two your reporter mentions that during the recent talks with NSCN (IM) leaders, "T. H. Muivah is said to have threatened that the government only would pay heed to their demands if bombs exploded in New Delhi." I must clarify that at no stage of the prolonged talks did Mr Muivah make any such statement.

On the other hand, though the NSCN (IM) leadership is keen on an early solution to the Naga issue, it is conscious of the complex nature of the problem and has often repeated its commitment to find a peaceful negotiated solution.

These leaders are also aware that the new government is committed to the continuance of the peace process, and that no quick-fix solution can be found.

K. Padmanabhaiah,
Representative of the Government for Naga Peace Talks, New Delhi

Ministers in disguise

Apropos of your editorial, "Ministers in disguise" (July 9), the Punjab Chief Minister is trying to circumvent the Constitutional Amendment to bring down the ministry size in the state to 15 per cent of the Assembly strength by appointing nine Parliamentary Secretaries and one Chief Parliamentary Secretary. These Secretaries enjoy the same perks and privileges as the ministers, so these are certainly ministers in disguise. So this "downsizing" of ministry in Punjab would in fact increase the burden on the state exchequer.

Whom is the Punjab Chief Minister trying to befool? The Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, a strong votary of following the Constitution in letter and spirit, must immediately direct Capt Amarinder Singh not to make these appointments formal.

Y. P. MAKKER, Malout

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