Congress today slammed the Railway Budget as "pro-rich" with former Railway Minster Mallikarjun Kharge insisting that it is bereft of any new scheme, plan or railway line and seeks to please the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Kharge, who is also Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha, said that "the budget is only for Ahmedabad." He also ridiculed the government's plans to introduce a bullet train in Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector and setting up of a Diamond Quadrilateral network of high speed rail connecting major metros and growth centres. "Government has provided a sum of Rs 100 crore for the project. With this money only four to five kilometre of railway line could be constructed. Hence this plan will remain only a plan. Many announcements have been made but they will remain mere announcements. This is a PPP (Pubic Private Partnership) and FDI budget not a railway budget. The budget has nothing for the poor. "It's a pro-rich budget. The budget has nothing new to offer. There is no new new scheme, no new plan and no new railway line. They themselves have admitted that it is a plan holiday. When they are not going to give anything what is the point in talking about it," Kharge told reporters outside Parliament after the budget was presented in Lok Sabha.
The former Railway Minister said that the government has a social responsibility towards people and wondered what will happen to public welfare if the focus is only on commercial viability what the government has frequently beent talking about.
Meanwhile, former Railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal also criticised Gowda for not introducing "anything new" in the rail budget, saying projects like linking ports with rail line and introducing Information Technology (IT) were "already in pipeline"."Today they (BJP led government) are saying ports are to be linked with main rail line and its expenditure is to be incurred by those who own ports and factories and they should be given discounts in rail freight. "They are stressing that they are doing it. (But)It has already been done. No new target has been given in the budget in this regard," he told reporters in Chandigarh.
"He (Railway Minister) has talked about Information Technology and said they will be using IT in a big way.
Perhaps they do not know that all these things were in pipeline. They are now saying it was their own initiative. Nothing new has been introduced in the budget at all. He has only criticised UPA led government," added Bansal.
Taking a dig at the Railway Minister for the proposal of introducing FDI in railway projects, the Congress minister said, "It is quite strange when I (as railway minister) said that FDI was needed (in railway projects) for making railway world class. They (BJP) had always dubbed FDI as demon." "They (BJP) have always criticised UPA led government for FDI. I remember that they (BJP) had even staged a walkout when I spoke about FDI in my speech," he added.
On the issue of Public Private Partnership (PPP), Bansal expressed surprise that the Railway Minister has only talked about introducing PPP on small things like walls and facilities. "How PPP will be beneficial for people," he questioned.
On review of rail stoppages, Bansal said that the Minister should have first introduced local trains before reducing stoppages of express trains. "I know for long route trains, there should be lesser stoppages. But the minister has not announced any local trains for such stations where there will be no stoppages for the convenience of people.
Bansal said that the Railway Minister has accused all previous rail ministers including Ram Vilas Paswan for frittering away the revenue, alleging that their approach was not rational. "He today alleged that all previous railway ministers had wasted the revenue. But it is not clear from his budget that how he will be using revenue in effective way.
Stating that previous UPA government was no allowed to take any new initiative, Bansal however said the Congress will always support NDA government for its efforts to improve rail services.