Punjab feels let down; Haryana happy with new projects

The Railway Budget has received a mixed response, with the Punjab government expressing its disappointment and the Haryana government hailing various decisions and proposals made by Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal described the budget as a let-down and a huge disappointment, for the poor and middle classes in general and for Punjab in particular. He said that after burdening the common man with additional fare hikes, the Centre had also gone back on its commitment to set up an additional integral coach factory. The State’s long pending demands on freight equalisation and the extension of the Mumbai and Kolkata freight corridors to Amritsar were rejected, while the Congress ruled States in the neighbourhood received liberal attention, Mr. Badal said.

‘No nod from Parliament’

In a separate statement issued by the party office, Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal said that for the first time in the history of independent India the Ministry had devised means to burden the common man without seeking the mandatory sanction of Parliament. He said that after protecting the interests of multinational oil companies through decontrol of petrol and diesel prices, the Railway Ministry had now “outsourced” rail fare increase to a proposed regulatory authority.

He added that fares were increased in January, and the proposed hikes in tatkal, sleeper and other charges would make a ticket costlier by Rs. 25 to Rs. 140. The 5 per cent increase in freight would have a cascading effect on inflation, impacting the common man in every walk of life, Mr. Badal said.On the other hand, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda hailed the budget for giving his State a rail coach manufacturing and maintenance unit at Sonepat, a welding plant at Sampla in Rohtak district, a rail service to the Mewat region as well as on the Yamunanagar-Chandigarh sector via Sadhaura-Naraingarh.

Talking to reporters, Mr. Hooda thanked the Centre for announcing new lines on the Delhi-Sohna-Nuh-Firozepur Jhirka-Alwar and Hisar-Sirsa via Agroha and Fatehabad sectors, announcing a survey for at least two new rail lines, and proposing extension of three existing ones.

Mr. Hooda also appreciated the proposal to run some express trains through Haryana. These included the weekly Bandra Terminus-Hissar Express via Ahmedabad, the bi-weekly Kalka-Sai Nagar Shirdi Express via Hazrat Nizamuddin-Bhopal-Itarsi, the bi-weekly Katra-Kalka Express via Morinda, the Delhi-Ferozepur intercity Express via Bathinda and the Delhi-Hoshiarpur Express.

The Congress MP from Anandpur Sahib, Ravneet Singh, thanked Mr. Bansal for starting the Hazur Saheb Nanded Express to connect the important Takhat Keshgarh Sahib in Ropar, Punjab, with the Takhat Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra. He also appreciated the starting an intercity express train that would facilitate devotees visiting Amritsar as well as the Katra-Kalka train via Morinda that would ease travel to the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu.

A people-friendly budget: Amarinder

President of the Punjab unit of the Congress Captain Amarinder Singh hailed the series of measures announced by Mr. Bansal, which, he said, would benefit Punjab, as they would bring the Takhat Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda district on the rail map of the country. He congratulated the Minister for bringing in a people friendly budget, besides introducing new trains and promising to improve facilities. Captain Singh also appreciated the proposals to upgrade various railway stations in Punjab, link Patti and Ferozepur, set up a skill development institute at Pathankot and introduce an additional weekly train between Chandigarh and Amritsar.