Opposition today slammed the government in Lok Sabha over the functioning of railways, saying it was indulging more in marketing gimmick while the funds under various heads have been cut down, impacting rail operations and safety.
Initiating a discussion on Demands for Grants (Railways) for 2016-17, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said 64 people died in railway accidents in 2015-16, higher than 54 in 2013-14.
“You (Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu) had in December 2015 announced setting up of ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshan Kosh’ (National Rail Security Fund) of Rs 1 lakh crore. I want to know how much fund has come and how much has been spent towards passenger safety,” Kharge said.
He said at a time when rail revenues are decreasing, allocation towards Depreciation Reserve Fund, Development Fund, Capital Fund, Debt Service Fund have all been cut down in 2016-17 Railway Budget.
“They (government) are misleading people. They are saying we are doing so much, when actually they are not… They are diverting attention of people… You people indulge more in marketing than actual work,” Kharge said.
He also raised the issue of soiled linen being used by the railways despite the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by the government.
Quoting a study, Kharge said the ruling government wants to construct a track for bullet train spending Rs 200 crore per km, whereas a track for normal speed train can be built for Rs 20 crore per km.
“The government should first do whatever is priority. All the big, catchy ideas are good for misleading people,” he said.
Kharge alleged that the Centre has not released funds for a metro project in Bangaluru, which was countered by Union Minister and BJP MP from Bangaluru Ananth Kumar who said Rs 3,500 crore have already been released to the state government.
Participating in the discussion, Yogi Adityanath (BJP) said the Railway budget is a proof of the Centre rising above party politics.
“Whatever challenges are there in the railways, we have inherited as part of legacy. During UPA’s rule we saw corruption, incomplete projects and even scams involving rail minister. This year’s budget has given a roadmap of taking the railways forward,” Adityanath added. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav appreciated the decision of railways to give priority to completing pending projects.
He wanted steps to be taken to start a train service between Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai. He said a lot of money was spent by the UP government as well as the railways on the project but the train service has yet to start.
Recalling that former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had assured him that the service would start by June 2011, he said the minister went away but the service is yet to begin.
He sought an assurance from the government about starting it.
Minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha intervened to say that he would ascertain the facts from his ministry and inform Singh about the status of the project by tomorrow by noon.
Tapas Mandal (Trinamool Congress) said the Railway Minister has neglected West Bengal and demanded that he should take care of the aspirations of the people of the state in the next budget.
BJD member Rabindra Kumar Jena said the railways is in the ICU as far as finances were concerned and demanded that efforts be made to revive the important means of transport for common people.
He suggested that railways should focus on its core activity of running trains and outsource other services like supply of bottled drinking water.
Shrirang Appe Barne (Shiv Sena) wanted the railways to increase number of local trains in Mumbai which is the lifeline of the financial capital of the country.
He also pressed for high-speed train connectivity between Mumbai and Pune.