Lalu Prasad, Sonia in Rae Bareli to launch rail coach factory


New Delhi : Railways Minister Lalu Prasad, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party MP Rahul Gandhi reached Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh Tuesday afternoon to launch a Rs.20 billion ($408 million) rail coach factory.

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“They arrived at the Fursatganj airport on the outskirts of Rae Bareli at about 12.15 p.m. and headed to the rail coach factory site in Lalganj,” state congress leader Virendra Madan told IANS on phone from Lucknow.

Ministers of State for Railways R. Velu and Naranbhai Rathwa will also accompany them, Uttar Pradesh Congress spokesperson Akhilesh Pratap Singh said.

The factory will be located in Lalganj in Rae Bareli, Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency.

The work on the factory, to come up on about 1,000 acres, was stalled in October when Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati refused to transfer 189.253 acres of land under the state government ownership, citing opposition by local people.

Her announcement had come dramatically ahead of Sonia Gandhi’s visit to the site for the ground-breaking ceremony.

The decision sparked off political controversy as Mayawati also tried to stop Sonia Gandhi, who is the chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), from addressing a rally there.

The Mayawati government’s decision was challenged in the Allahabad High Court but later the state relented and decided to grant the land to the railways on lease.

The lease deed for the 189.25 acres of land in Lalganj sub-district was executed on Jan 17 and the Indian Railways Wednesday filed its copy along with a supplementary affidavit in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court.

“The land has now been registered in the name of Northern Railway barely a couple of days ago and now there is no hurdle in the construction of the factory,” V. Madan, a Congress leader, told IANS by phone from Lucknow.

Railways officials said the project is likely to be completed in two years. Building more rail coach factories was on top of the railways ministry’s agenda this year, they said.