West Bengal looks forward to a state-friendly rail budget

By Aparajita Gupta, IANS,

Kolkata : With ‘Didi’ Mamata Banerjee in charge of the Railways ministry again, business leaders and commoners in West Bengal are expecting a series of sops for the state when she presents her budget in parliament Friday.

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Trinamool Congress chief Banerjee, who has returned as Railways minister after eight years, has left very few in doubt that West Bengal will be a focal area in her budget proposals.

Keen to project a pro-people image, Banerjee considers the rail budget as a useful tool to usher in development and keep on track her chief ministerial ambitions ahead of the 2011 assembly polls in the state.

People’s expectations have soared in view of Banerjee’s earlier 19-month stint in Rail Bhavan. In her two budgets then, Banerjee introduced a new biweekly New Delhi-Kolkata Rajdhani Express, besides starting several express trains connecting various portions of West Bengal, as also the state with other parts of the country.

At that time, she extended the services of several trains, increased the frequency of several more and proposed a large number of new railway lines in the state. Then her party Trinamool Congress was part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

This time, state-based industrialists expect something special from the rail budget.

“We expect a growth-oriented budget with more emphasis given by the government on infrastructure investment,” J.P. Chowdhary, chairman, Titagarh Wagons Ltd, told IANS.

Describing Banerjee as dynamic, Chowdhary said her stress on infrastructure development will generate good business.

Titagarh Wagons is one of the leading private sector wagon manufacturers in India. It is primarily engaged in the business of manufacturing railway wagons, bailey bridges, heavy earth moving and mining equipment, steel and SG iron castings of moderate to complex configuration.

Ruia group chairman Pawan Kumar Ruia, who owns Jessop & Co, is looking forward to the railways budget.

“We need new projects for rail connectivity that would not only cater to the spiralling infrastructure requirements of the country, but also serve as avenues of generating more employment, more income and more demand,” he said.

The Ruia group acquired sick heavy engineering and infrastructure company Jessop & Co in 2003 and turned it into a profit making business. Jessop is also engaged in wagon manufacturing.

Ruia favoured more investments in new trains and technical upgradation of major existing trains with greater safety and more comforts.

He was for “fast introduction of new design wagons in large volumes with features which will entail abundant use of stainless steel and other non-corrosive materials. These would result in improved throughputs per rake.”

The man on Kolkata streets is brimming with hope.

“The government should take adequate steps to start Sunday Metro Railway service a bit earlier,” commuter Debeshar De told IANS. Now, the metro railway starts running in the afternoon on Sundays.

He also wants the trains to run on time. “The budget should emphasise on punctuality of train services,” said De, who travels to the heart of the city every day from the outskirts.

Anwesha Mukherjee, a student from the state who stays in Mumbai, is rooting for better connectivity between the western metropolis and Kolkata.

Similarly Ankit, now working in Bangalore, wants more frequent trains from the state to Bangalore.