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Political parties unhappy, industry upbeat

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Feb 25 - Political parties and non-political outfits in the State came out strongly against the Railway Budget presented in Parliament today and accused the NDA regime in the Centre of once again ignoring the needs and expectations of Assam and the North Eastern region.

�There is nothing specific for the North East in the Railway Budget presented by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. Only cosmetic announcements have been made in the Budget,� Assam Rail Passengers� Association (ARPA) general secretary Dipankar Sharma said.

He said that whatever investments for projects have been announced is mostly for ongoing projects.

�When railway infrastructure and services in the region are in such pathetic state, we had expected much more in the Budget. But our hopes have been belied. No new trains have been announced. The Rs 1,789-crore alternative broad gauge line from New Bongaigaon to Agyathuri has been pending before the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for years. There is no mention about the long-standing demand to bifurcate the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) zone by removing the areas falling in West Bengal and Bihar from it and making the NFR responsible only for the North Eastern states,� Sharma said.

Regarding the Railway Minister�s decision not to increase passenger fares and freights, Sharma said, �That is no doubt a relief but maybe it has been done only because of the forthcoming Assembly polls in some states. They can hike the rates once the polls are over.�

Sharma said that even as the government is taking about bullet trains and other initiatives in other parts of the country, nothing concrete has been announced for double-tracking of rail lines.

�How long will the government continue only surveys for double-tracking? When will it become a reality? What about a second railway bridge at Saraighat or expansion of local and suburban services in Guwahati or another passenger terminal in New Guwahati? These are old demands of the people of the region. And yet there is no mention of such projects in the Budget,� he said.

NF Railway Mazdoor Union said the Budget has belied the hope of the people of Assam and North Eastern states.

�It is over-packed with progress for the western sector of the country which is already developed, and has grossly deprived the North Eastern region despite all assurances of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his whole team... NF Railway Mazdoor Union expresses its strong resentment over the deprivation perpetrated in the already deprived region,� Union general secretary Rakhal Dasgupta said.

Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) termed the Budget as a �disappointment� for the people of Assam.

APCC president Anjan Dutta said that people of the State had high expectations from the Railway Budget but their hopes have been belied.

�There is nothing in the Budget specifically for development of the rail infrastructure in Assam. The government, which is talking of bullet trains, has not announced anything new for Assam. They (BJP) are only trying to take credit for the Lumding-Silchar broad gauge project which was started by the UPA government,� Dutta said.

He added, �Whatever the BJP leaders from Assam may say, today�s Rail Budget has proved that for the BJP-led government is a government which merely gives slogans and try to sell dreams.�

Communist Party of India (Marxist) termed the Railway Budget as an attempt by the Central government to open the doors to further privatisation of the public services.

CPI(M) Assam State Committee secretary Deben Bhattacharya said the Budget has �poured cold water on the hopes of the people of Assam.�

�There is no focus on double-tracking, electrification, second rail bridge at Saraighat, improvement of passenger amenities, development of facilities at railway station, introduction of DEMU and other things which are long-standing demands of the people of Assam,� he said.

Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) termed the Budget as betrayal of Assam and burnt copies of the document in the city. The outfit said that the Budget has continued with the tradition of depriving Assam and the North East and no effort has been made to address the needs of the region.

However, industry bodies have welcomed the Budget.

Ranjit Barthakur, Chairman FICCI North East Advisory Council, said, �It is a pragmatic budget and we compliment the initiatives towards improving the quality of travel experience, and employment generation apart from the initiatives for better management of water, waste and energy efficiency. The continued initiatives towards improving connectivity in the North East will be critical for development of the region. The decision to work with State Governments to develop tourist trains is also welcome and I hope the states in the region, particularly Assam, will be able to take advantage of this.�

He added, �However, we would have liked to hear announcement of a firm timeline for implementation of key projects like connectivity to all state capitals, the Jiribam-Imphal-Moreh railway line and the proposed trans-Asian railway line.�

FINER Chairman RS Joshi said �while the Railway Budget 2016-17 is a good on intent, challenges lie ahead in its implementation.�

�Keeping in view the various odds, revenue growth in 2015-16 below the target and set-up of the 7th Pay Committee burden looming large, the Railway Budget 2016-17 is an attempt to put the Railways back on track, with focus on long-term measures. Though there is no clarity with regard to projected generation of additional non-tariff revenue, fortunately there are no negatives and populist measures in the Budget,� he said.

Joshi added, �As the long-term and mid-term measures put in place in his last Budget are kept intact, it is quite challenging for the Railway Minister to come out with a reasonably good Budget. Focus on rail connectivity in the North East is retreaded which would be welcomed by the people of the region. The announcement of 44 new projects increased outlays for improving the infrastructure augurs well not only for the Railways but also for the Indian economy.�

NFR General Manager HK Jaggi said the �Budget has a positive outcome for the zone�.

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