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Lalu got math wrong, Mamata corrects

Last updated on: July 3, 2009 

Lalu got math wrong, Mamata corrects

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They may be on the same side of political power, but that did not stop Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and her predecessor Lalu Prasad from taking pot-shots at each other during the presentation of Railway Budget in the Lok Sabha.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee took a swipe at her predecessor Lalu Prasad for setting "unrealistically high targets" for revenues in the interim budget and reduced the projected receipts by Rs 4,800 crore (Rs 48 billion).

"I am presenting the budget estimates for 2009-10 in the backdrop of the shortfall in performance of the Railways in 2008-09. Freight loading fell short of the target of 850 million tonnes by 17 million tonnes. Revenues from commercial utilisation of surplus railway lands also did not materialise.

"This has forced me to review the targets set for 2009-10 in the interim budget. Based on the review, it is very clear that the unrealistically high targets set in the interim budget are not sustainable and warrant a mid course correction," Banerjee said presenting the budget in Lok Sabha.

Out in the cold in the new dispensation, RJD chief Lalu Prasad sought to embarrass Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on the Rail Budget saying she had used his achievements in the Ministry to build her case.

Prasad, the former Railway Minister who was not preferred by the Congress leadership in the new government, also accused her of neglecting Bihar in the budget.

In a combative mood, Prasad said he was not bothered by the Minister's declaration of coming out with a white paper on the organisational, operational and financial situation and performance of Railways in the past five years when Prasad was at the helm.

"This is not an embarrassment (that a white paper is coming out). Let her bring out white paper. I am not bothered," he told reporters after Banerjee presented the rail budget in Lok Sabha.

"Is this a budget? She has just read out what I had announced during my stint...She suffers from a complex," he said. Prasad claimed there was "nothing new" in the budget and that she had just read out what he had prepared during his stint. "She has used my achievements as a base to build her vision," he said.


Image: Lalu Prasad Yadav speaks during a meeting with his party workers in Patna.
Photographs: Krishna Murari Kishan/Rueters
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Lalu got math wrong, Mamata corrects

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The net revenue of Indian Railways has been pegged at Rs 8,121.48 crore (Rs 81.21 billion) down from Rs 10,876.48 crore (Rs 108.76 billion) as presented in the interim budget in February this year by Lalu Prasad.

Similarly, the investible surplus available with the Railways has been lowered to Rs 8,631.04 crore (Rs 86.31 billion) for the year 2009-10 compared to Rs 13,532.33 crore (Rs 135.32 billion) projected by the former Railway Minister just over four months ago.

Despite this mid course correction, Banerjee has proposed a higher dividend to the Centre at Rs 5,479.22 crore (Rs 54.79 billion) for the current financial year, up from the interim estimate of Rs 5,304.22 crore (Rs 53.04 billion).


Image: Mamata Banerjee takes part in a rally to protest against the government's actions in Lalgarh.
Photographs: Parth Sanyal/Reuters
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Lalu got math wrong, Mamata corrects

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Mamata Banerjee, who presented her first Budget in the UPA's second tenure, was interrupted in her speech, interestingly not by anyone from the opposition benches but from the leader of RJD which is an ally of the Congress-led coalition.

During Banerjee's hour-long speech, the Railway Minister and Prasad were seen taking digs at each other. "I respect you...You have done some things and I will do some things...I need support," she told the RJD chief as he kept making certain comments on her budget proposals.

While announcing a scheme providing employment to the tribals near Lalgarh, the Trinamool Congress chief addressed Prasad and said, "Let me do one or two (for Bengal). You did so much (for Bihar)." At this, Prasad got up and told her, "I am not interrupting you. Why are you after me?"

"On the basis of whatever reforms I undertook, Mamata tried to play a game of 20-20," Lalu said after the Budget.


Image: Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in conversation with Railway officials.
Photographs: PTI/A file photo
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Special trains for fruits & vegetables

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To cut whopping losses of about Rs 40,000 crore (Rs 400 billion) every year because of fruit and vegetables getting wasted, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee proposed introducing special trains to reduce the damage.

On similar lines, the minister said the Railways would facilitate movements of village handicrafts, and cottage industry and textile products from production clusters like Tirupur, Dhanekhali, and Shantipur to consumption centres to promote small-scale industries by providing them access to new markets.

Presenting the Railway Budget for the 2009-10 fiscal, Banerjee said that the Railways proposes to contribute in the second Green Revolution "by introducing special trains to carry perishable products like fruits, vegetables and fish" from producing centres to consuming centres.

The special trains would maintain the quality and freshness of perishable produce, she added. She pointed out that the country at present suffers an "unacceptable loss" of Rs 35,000-40,000 crore (Rs 350-400 billion) every year because of fruit and vegetables getting wasted.


Image: A shopkeeper packs vegetables for a customer at a street-side shop in Mumbai.
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
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Railway jobs for women

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Minorities, women and the economically backward can now look forward to "better representation" in railway jobs with Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing to develop a new scheme for them.

The Railway Minister said separate special recruitment drives will also be conducted to fill up vacancies of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and physically challenged.

"It is proposed to develop a scheme to give better representation to minorities, women and economically backward classes of society in railway jobs," Banerjee said while presenting the Budget.

Noting that she had received some observations regarding the functioning of Railway Recruitment Boards, Banerjee said the recruitment policy and its functioning will be reviewed shortly.

"Special recruitment drives will be launched to wipe out backlog in filling up the vacancies of SCs/STs...A special recruitment drive will be launched for filling up the vacancies against physically handicapped quota," she said.

Banerjee also said that sports persons will also get "their share" in recruitment.


Image: Passengers geting down at Churchgate station in Mumbai.
Photographs: Arun Patil
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