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Laloo tables populist Rly Budget
No hike in passenger, freight fares * 46 trains announced
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
Union Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav presented a populist Budget for 2005-06 envisaging no hike in passenger fares or freight and parcel rates coupled with introduction of 46 new trains.

Mr Yadav unravelled a slew of concessions encompassing the farm sector, students of government schools in rural areas, introduction of a “Premier Registration Scheme” for exporters as well as a “Wagon Investment Scheme” to promote public-private partnership in procurement of wagons.

Simultaneously, he spoke of a five-year Integrated Railway Modernisation Plan (IRMP) with an expenditure of Rs 24,000 crore till 2010. This amount will be spent on track modernisation, maintenance and modernising the bridge management, signalling and telecommunication, mechanical and electrical and disaster management systems.

An important component of the IRMP will be running trains with a speed of 150 kmph on the New Delhi-Howrah and New Delhi-Chennai routes.

Notwithstanding the Opposition furore in the Lok Sabha about the propriety of “a tainted” minister presenting the Budget leading to a walkout and boycott by the BJP-led NDA, Mr Yadav held forth in his inimitable style that one of the flagship projects - the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulah rail line - would be completed expeditiously despite the technical hurdles and other problems.

The progress in the Quazigund-Baramula and Katra-Quazigund sections has also suffered due to various reasons.

“The government is taking all action to provide security on the project alignments and expedite the progress of the project,” he observed.

Mr Yadav proposed 50 per cent concession in second class fares to farmers and milk producers to travel to institutes for acquiring better agricultural practices and dairying.

Students of government schools in rural areas, including girls, will get 75 per cent concession in second-class fares once a year for study tours. This was earlier only applicable to boys.

To meet the anticipated incremental freight traffic in the coming years, customers investing in railway wagons will be assured of the supply of a guaranteed number of rakes every month based on the number of rakes procured and the turn round of the type of wagons in addition to the normal supply of rakes. For such guaranteed wagons there will be a 10 per cent freight rebate for 10 to 15 years.

Mr Yadav has sought to rationalise and simplify the existing freight structure by reducing the existing 27 classes to 19. At the same time freight rates of commodities being used by the common man will not be increased. Consequently, the freight charges for kerosene and LPG will be reduced by 3.7 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively.

Transporting food grains and pulses of the economically underprivileged sections of society will continue below the base classes. There will, therefore, be no increase in their freight rates. At the same time, the government has found no justification in incurring losses in moving food grains and pulses for the non-PDS and non-poverty alleviation programmes.

Thus, there is going to be classification upgradation for movement of such food grains and pulses on the railways.

In rationalising the goods tariff, there will henceforth be only 80 groups of commodities instead of the 4,000 at present.

Among the new trains proposed are the daily Amritsar-Attari DMU and the Agra Cantonment-Bayana MEMU (daily). Of the 27 extension of trains, the Delhi-Farrukhabad Kalindi Express will go up to Bhiwani on one side and Kanpur on the other after gauge conversion. The Trivandrum-New Delhi Kerala Express will touch Chandigarh after the extension of the new pit line.

In respect of the increase in frequency of 10 trains, the Gorakhpur-New Delhi Gorakhdham Express will proceed till Rohtak. This has also been made a daily from a tri-weekly train.

Mr Yadav announced 20 more surveys this time in addition to the 72 in the 2004-05 Railway Budget. The 31 new surveys being taken up include new lines between Yamuna Nagar and Patiala, Qadian to Beas and Chandigarh to Baddi. Surveys for new lines being upgraded include Hissar to Sirsa via Agroha.

Surveys for gauge conversion brings into its ambit the Pathankot-Jogindernagar sector. Out of the nine new surveys for doubling lines includes Laksar-Hardwar-Dehra Dun. Survey of doubling the Meerut-Saharanpur section is being updated.

As expected Bihar figures prominently in the Railway Minister’s largesse with a wheel manufacturing plant being set up in Chapra to reduce dependence on import of wheels. In addition, a dozen new concrete sleeper plants are coming up. Of these, five would be set up immediately.

The Railways outlay for 2005-06 has been kept at Rs 11,827 crore. A sum of Rs 3,522 crore has been earmarked for safety-related works through the Special Railway Safety Fund. The Prime Minister has directed the Planning Commission to allow the Ministry of Railways to access extra budgetary resources of Rs 3,000 crore.

In addition to the budgetary support, Mr Yadav proposed providing Rs 4,718 crore for plan expenditure.




Five-year Integrated Railway Modernisation Plan costing Rs 24,000 crore.
IRMP envisages running 150-kmph passenger trains and 100-kmph freight trains on golden quadrilateral and its diagonals.
Internet booking timings from 4 am to 11 pm.
Rail Land Development Authority being set up.
Premier Registration Scheme for freight customers.
Wagon Investment Scheme to boost public-private partnership.
Introduction of double stack container trains.
Rationalisation of capital structure.
Recruitment drive for filling vacancies in the RPF.
Run of 28 pairs of trains to be extended.
Extra-budgetary support worth Rs 3,000 crore.
Travel concession to farmers and students of rural government schools.



Privilege motion likely against PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
The BJP is likely to table a privilege motion against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the alleged leak of the Union Budget through his reply to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on better amenities to the weaker sections in the coming Budget.

A final decision on this will be taken in the next couple of days after consultations, BJP sources said here. NDA leaders, who met this morning, decided to raise this issue on February 28 before Finance Minister P. Chidambaram rises to make his Budget speech.

Refuting the Opposition charge, the Prime Minister said there was no breach of privilege of Parliament.

“What is breach of privilege? These are all discussions within the government system outlining the government’s thinking without revealing anything substantial,” he told mediapersons in Parliament House.


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