As she made her speech in Parliament, Mamata Banerjee seemed very much aware of the standard accusation hurled at all railway ministers: of unleashing a list of goodies targeted at their home state.
But even as she was in (audible) pains to assure her audience that her focus was pan-Indian by naming places that didn't roll off her tongue, one critical issue remains unanswered: do home states of actually benefit from favouritism?
Going by the records, even as railway ministers love announcing grand schemes targeted at their constituencies, they have done precious little to ensure implementation. Across India, 376 projects with a price tag of Rs 105, 370.33 crore were pending until April 2008 — the amount being two and a half times this year’s budgetary outlay of the railways.
In her tenure of nine months, Banerjee inaugurated 43 projects in West Bengal and made scores of announcements. “None of the schemes have moved forward an inch. She is handing out false promises, with an eye of the 2011 assembly elections,” said CPI (M) leader Basudev Acharia.
The record of Banerjee's predecessor is no better. Not one of the mega-projects that former Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had announced in his tenure has moved to the implementation stage in the last six years. “His only interest was to get the land of his relatives acquired at higher rates and get his own people employed in railways,” said Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee President Anil Sharma.
This only confirms that the Railway Budget is really an exercise for politicians to make promises to their electorate ‘back home’, promises that aren’t even kept.