Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Kharge makes a brave attempt to be heard over din in Lok Sabha, gives a positive twist to interim rail budget

New Delhi: Union railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge is the old style politician with a strong voice, and he used it to the fullest while reading out the interim rail budget speech in the Lok Sabha at noon on Wednesday. He could be heard over Seemandhra MPs protesting shouting slogans loudly against formation of Telangana. But he did not persist in reading the 17-page text fully. After making the preliminary remarks, and announcing the new trains, he said that he was laying the speech on the table of the House and that it be deemed as read.

He stood at his place in the second row and read out the text from the lectern that has been set up for the purpose. His speech lasted a mere 15 minutes.

True to his traditional Congress socialist thinking, he emphasised the importance of railways for the economy. He asserted that “it is critical for the Railways to be restored to a more central place in the national planning.” He reminded that “Railways continue to deliver services ungrudgingly in spite of constraints of resources, both physical and financial,” and urged the need to look at its “urgent” investment needs.

Like a seasoned politician, Kharge tried to paint a positive picture of UPA2’s record in the railways. He has been holding the portfolio for the last eight months. He referred to the railway spreading its network in Jammu and Kashmir and in the north-east of the country, and uniting the country through the rail link.

He also said that the railways have exceeded target in extending the rail network and in increasing rolling stock, and he talked of the freight corridors and the recent India-Japan agreement signed between the prime ministers of the two countries on the feasibility study of high speed train corridor between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

He gave a positive twist to the financial state of the railways saying that “fund balances” would increase from Rs 2,391 crore to Rs 8,018 crore in the current fiscal. “This is primarily attributable to strict fiscal discipline enforced by the organisation,” he said. He expected this to increase to Rs 12, 728 crore by the end of 2014-15.

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