Today's Paper

For West Bengal, budget is on the poll track

Marcus Dam

Kolkata: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee may have told journalists, after presenting the Railway budget for 2010-11 on Wednesday, that “all States are my motherland” but there is no arguing that West Bengal accounts for a chunk of the slew of proposals she announced in Parliament.

This is hardly surprising given that elections to 82 municipalities in West Bengal, including the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, are due in a few months and the critical Assembly elections next year.

Ms. Banerjee, who is the chief of the Trinamool Congress, has set her sights on the elections — apparently reflected in the bounty she, as Railway Minister, has proposed for West Bengal.

Close to one-third of the proposed 52 new long-distance trains will start from or end in stations in the State. Also proposed is a survey for a new rail link between Sealdah and Howrah and upgrading and extension of the Kolkata Metro network.

Two out of the four new Duronto trains that were announced in the budget will connect Howrah and the respective destinations, while suburban train services from Kolkata will be augmented.

The proposals for infrastructure development include modernisation of the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works with plans to augment its capacity as well as the setting up of a diesel multiple unit factory in Sankrail in Howrah district.

The Trinamool, whose support base has for long been largely confined to south Bengal, is working towards extending it to the northern districts. Against this backdrop, the proposal to set up a rail axle factory in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode in New Jalpaiguri comes as no surprise.

Ms. Banerjee has reiterated her plans to set up a railway project at the Singur site, from where Tata Motors’ Nano project had to be relocated in October 2008 (following a movement against land acquisition led by her party).

Also to come up in West Bengal are an advanced loco pilot training centre in Kharagpur, state-of-the-art wagon factories in Bardhaman and Haldia, a railway research centre at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and a loco pilot training centre as well as a centre of excellence in wagon prototyping there.

One of the six bottling plants to provide clean drinking water will be set up at Farakka in Murshidabad district. A refrigerated container factory in PPP mode has been proposed at Budge Budge in South 24 Parganas district.

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