Minister says it is a realistic, growth-oriented Railway Budget

Railway Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge said here on Wednesday that he had sought to present a realistic Budget without competing with anyone or with the Lok Sabha elections in mind.

The chaos in Parliament prevented Mr. Kharge from reading out in full his maiden Budget, and for the first time, the customary press conference of the Railway Minister was not held. With, perhaps, very little for him to announce given the financial crisis gripping Railways, Mr. Kharge had just a brief interaction with presspersons on the lawns of Parliament.

When reminded that the then Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, had reduced fares by two percent in his vote-on-account ahead of the 2009 elections, Mr. Kharge said his attempt was to present a realistic Budget and help Railways sustain themselves and continue to serve all.

“My motive is not to compete with anyone or in announcing populist measures ahead of the elections,” he said.

The Minister said he had made a few announcements within the ambit of an “interim Budget” and had not touched passenger and freight charges. His efforts at resource mobilisation were limited to what the system afforded him.

Mr. Kharge described it as a growth-oriented exercise with the thrust continuing to be on the northeast and strategic border States, which had received till now Rs. 35,000 crore as special provisions.

Talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart would ensure that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor took off with Japanese aid. Work on dedicated freight corridors was progressing well.

The Railway Minister denied the charge that only the upper strata of passengers had got attention in the Budget, and clarified that the money to be earned from 17 premium trains announced would be used for improving amenities in general trains. He pointed out that 56 general trains had also been announced. Denying the charge of his political detractors, Mr. Kharge said his Budget was not a wasted exercise.

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