Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 25:
Reactions to Rail Budget 2016 presented by Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today were mixed among various political parties, passengers and experts in Odisha.
While BJP welcomed the budget, Congress saw nothing new in it and Biju Janata Dal took a more neutral stance.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik thanked Minister Prabhu for allocating Rs 4682 crores against a demand of Rs 5000 crore, while pointing out that the budget allotment had been revised downwards last year and requested him not to do the same this year. Further, he cited that many of the pending demands such as Sitalapalli wagon factory and Metro Rapid Transit System (MRTS) for greater Bhubaneswar area have not been taken care of.
“Total outlay for Odisha for the year 2016-17 is Rs 4682 crores, against a demand of Rs 5000 crore, which is an increase by 3O percent from last year budget outlay. We appreciate the enhancement in outlay and request Railway Minister not to revise this downwards like last year. Last year actual allotment was 35% less than the original Budget allotment for Odisha. I am thankful to the Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu for accepting some of the major demands of our state,” said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik welcoming the budget.
“Though two new Locomotive factories were announced in Make in India scheme, the already sanctioned wagon factory at Sitalapalli (Ganjam District of Odisha)– which was announced in 2011-12, has got only an absolute token provision of Rs 1000. We expect railway enhance this grant this year. Considering the fact that Bhubaneswar has now emerged as the number one Smart City in the country, we hope Railways can still include MRTS for greater Bhubaneswar area,” he added reminding that Odisha has been demanding a Rail based Mass Rapid Transit System for greater Bhubaneswar since long.
BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab took a similar line and said that the allocation has not been up to expectation even though BJD had tried hard and the Railway Minister had assured to consider it positively. On the other hand, BJD Spokesperson Samir Dash rated the budget 8/10.
BJP, as expected, welcomed the budget.
“This is a dynamic and historic budget. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has delivered really well on the expectations of the people. It is a step in the right direction for the railways to be the backbone of India as Prime Minister Modi envisioned. For Odisha, we have offered more than what was expected from us,” said Union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram.
Similar statements were issued by other BJP leaders too.
Odisha Congress President Prasad Harichandan trashed the budget and called it “hollow” citing that the budget is ill-prepared and has no new projects for the state.
Passenger reactions were also a mixed bag.
“The performance of the Railway has not met expectation this year. Targets were missed. It is going to get even more complicated after the rollout of the 7th Pay Commission. Expenses are on a surge. Tariff hike has been put on hold. PPP mode projects have not taken off owing to lack of private sector interest. The budget does not give signs that the Minister has a plan to turn the situation around, even though his intentions appear to be good,” said Pranit Mishra, a MBA student in Bhubaneswar.
“I welcome the fact that Railways have allocated more and would invest more in Odisha. However, they look like distant dreams. I can’t understand how this budget addresses the concerns we face on a daily basis. Minister promised of cleanliness in trains and station under ‘swachh bharat’ last year, but nothing has changed. Local trains are overcrowded, but the Minister has not announced any new train,” said Pushpanjali Panda, a commuter.
Similarly, while some of the coolies – who have received a new name “sahayak” as per the new budget – thanked the Minister; many others said that a change in name doesn’t make any difference at all. They instead demanded better facilities for themselves.