NATIONAL

Vote on account for Railways okayed

NEW DELHI, MARCH 17. Parliament today approved the vote on account for Railways for 2005-06 after the Rajya Sabha adopted and returned the Appropriation Bills concerned. Earlier, the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, assured the Rajya Sabha that his Ministry would take all measures to improve rail safety and step up activities to meet the demands of various States.

The vote on account would enable the Railways to withdraw about Rs. 15,778 crores from the Consolidated Fund for Railway expenditure in the first two months of 2005-06.

Walkout by NDA

The reply of the Minister to the discussion on the Rail Budget was marred by protests by the National Democratic Alliance. Its members staged a walkout over the issue of "chargesheeted" Ministers in the Government.

While winding up the discussion, Mr. Prasad had a dig at the BJP members, saying that they have no concern for the people of their constituency. Asserting that he would give top priority for safety and that the Railways had committed Rs. 17,000 crores for this purpose, he said many safety projects had been completed and the remaining would be over by 2007. The allocation for safety for 2005-06 was Rs. 3,532 crores.

Mr. Prasad said the Railways was not neglecting any State and pointed out that it needed Rs. 46,000 crores to complete all ongoing projects, which was an uphill task. Though there were some cost over-runs in some projects, resulting in the need for additional resources, all projects would be completed in five years. About the complaint of delay in launching some Sampark Kranti Express trains, the Minister said that some of these could not be started owing to Assembly elections in some States and these would be started in the near future. On the Jammu-Udhampur rail project, Mr. Prasad said the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, would inaugurate the new line followed by the launch of the Uttar Sampark Express from Udhampur.

Five-year plan

Mr. Prasad welcomed a suggestion from the former RBI Governor, Bimal Jalan, for a five-year plan for modernisation of Railways. The Railways was committed to entering into public-private partnership. It had started a Rail Land Development Authority to augment resources for modernisation and development.

The Railways' income from freight had more than doubled.

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