Mamata offers bait to states for safe train movement

Friday, February 25, 2011

NEW DELHI - Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has a novel incentives scheme to ensure safety of trains across states.

She has offered to “gift” two new trains and two railway projects to any state that ensures trouble-free running of trains for the whole year.

Banerjee made the offer of a special package during her presentation of the railway budget for the 2011-12 fiscal while expressing concern over the rising disruptions of train services due to sabotage and “rail roko (Stop trains)” agitations for all and sundry causes.

“Railways, being a soft target, has been facing the wrath of extremists, agitations and other unsocial elements. The incidences of disruptions by way of bomb blasts, sabotage and track-tampering are on the rise,” Banerjee said.

She noted that law and order being the responsibility of the state governments, her department was mostly helpless in handling such situations. “Frequent calls for ‘rail roko’ are not only crippling operations on Indian Railways but also causing immense hardship to passengers and substantial loss of revenues.”

Urging the state governments to take necessary steps to stop such disruptions, she said: “I am now making an offer that whichever state ensures trouble-free train running for the whole year, shall be given two new trains and two projects as a special package.

Between April to December last year, there were 115 cases of ‘rail roko’ agitations. “In the current year, till now more than 1,500 passenger-carrying trains have been cancelled, another 1,500 diverted over longer routes, and more than 3,500 rescheduled on account of such disruptions,” Banerjee said.

Following the May 28 Gyaneshwari Express sabotage in West Bengals West Midnapore district, that claimed lives of 148 passengers, the Kharagpur-Tata, Chakradharpur-Rourkela and Kharagpur-Adra sections of South Eastern Railways were identified as most vulnerable to Maoist attacks.

For the safety of the passengers, the SER suspended the nightly movement of the trains between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. on these sections, causing a huge loss of crores of rupees.

West Bengal, where Banerjees Trinamool Congress is the main opposition party, has seen a large number of disruptions. Banerjee has time and again accused the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led ruling Left Front of “sabotaging” and “disrupting” railway services to score political points.

Besides, a large number of agitations have also taken place on local issues unconnected with the Railways.

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