Aarti Dhar

Rs. 10,807-crore budget passed by voice vote

Proposal to acquire 3,000 AK rifles

for RPF

NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the interim rail budget, with Railway Minister Lalu Prasad announcing some more new trains and outlining plans to step up security in view of terror threats.

The Rs. 10,807-crore budget for implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations and to fund various ongoing projects was passed by voice vote.

Replying to the debate on the budget, Mr. Prasad rejected the Opposition charge that fares were being hiked through the “backdoor” by way of “tatkal” bookings on higher payment.

He claimed that in the past five years, fares of all classes were lowered, in spite of which the Railways earned a cash surplus of Rs. 90,000 crore.

Some members were not satisfied with the budget. The Biju Janata Dal members walked out alleging that Orissa was ignored. Mr. Prasad said budgetary support to the Railways had declined from 53 per cent to 29 per cent since 2004 and it was investing over Rs. 20,000 crore out of its internal resources for its projects.

More RPF personnel

To strengthen security on trains and rail property, there was a proposal to recruit 22,000 additional personnel for the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and create battalions of Special Protection Force. The Railways also proposed to acquire 3,000 AK rifles for the RPF and a request in this regard had been sent to the Home Ministry.

All railway stations in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, besides 140 other railway stations across the country have been declared sensitive.

Security at these stations was being upgraded with new measures, including strict access control, installation of CCTVs, setting up of facilities for detection and disposal of explosives and passenger and baggage checking, Mr. Prasad said.

Trains extended

Responding to the demands of members, Mr. Prasad announced the launch of some new trains, an increase in frequency of a number of trains and extending the services of a few.

Among the new trains, he said two long-distance ones would connect Thiruvananthapuram with Mumbai and Bilaspur. A rail coach factory would also be established in Palakkad, Kerala.

Advani’s request

On the request of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani to start a “gharib rath” between his constituency Gandhinagar and Delhi, Mr. Prasad said the Ahmedabad-Haridwar Mail and the Mumbai-Jaipur Gharib Rath would now pass via Gandhinagar.