Prominent Bihar stamp on rail map

New Delhi, Feb 26 | Updated: Feb 27 2005, 05:30am hrs
Every railway minister is expected to have a "leaning" towards his/her home state. On these lines, Lalu Prasads second Rail Budget was widely expected to have a prominent Bihari accent. However, Railway Bhawan sources claim that with his focus recently being the Bihar elections, the Rail Budget ended up being ghost-written by the Prime Ministers office, resulting in "not very distinguishable gains" for Bihar.

Nevertheless, Mr Prasad did bring in Bihar quite early, mentioning "the unprecedented success" of the 139 phone inquiry number. He said it would now be extended to the village level nation-wide, omitting to mention that the initiative had been tried in Karnataka too.

There are distinctive gains for Bihar in the Budget: two new concrete sleeper plants in Dauram Madhepur and Sitamarhi; the setting up of a wheel manufacturing plant in Mr Prasads constituency Chhapra, which was announced in the previous Budget; inclusion of two new trains -- Muzaffarpur-Howrah Jansadharan Express (weekly) and Bhagalpur-Malda Town Express (six days a week), apart from a train between Patna and Amritsar that will be added to Akal Takht Express. In addition, the Budget proposes extension of certain train services in ways that are beneficial to Bihar. They include New Delhi-Muzaffarpur Lichchavi Express to Samastipur, Ahmedabad-Muzaffarpur Sabarmati Express to Darbhanga and Delhi-Muzaffarpur Sapta Kranti Express to Darbhanga. In addition, the extension of Delhi-New Jalpaiguri Sikkim Mahananda Link Express to Alipurduar and Puri-Nizamuddin Kalinga Utkal Express to Haridwar are also significant.

Among the trains whose frequency has been increased are Lokmanya Tilak-Chhapra Godan Express from weekly to tri-weekly; Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express from four days a week to five days a week; and, New Delhi-Dibrugarh Town Rajdhani Link Express (passes through Bihar) from triweekly to daily.

Further, while the gauge conversion of Mansi-Saharsa and Jogbani-Katihar-Radhikapur sections is being expedited, the gauge conversion of Samastipur-Khagaria-Mansi section has been proposed.

Among the 219 km of new lines proposed nationwide include the sections of Nekpur-Natesar of Rajgir-Tilaiya, Banka-Barhat of Deogarh-Sultanganj, and Sanjauli-Piro of Ara-Sasaram.

Apart from this, the proposed doubling of lines for the Chapra-Hajipur route is expected to decongest the route. Interestingly, Chhapra and Hajipur are the Lok Sabha contituencies of Mr Yadav and his current arch-rival (and former rail minister) Ram Vilas Paswan. One awaits the results of the Bihar state elections to see whether the relations between the two will be decongested in case of a hung Assembly.