The CPI(M) on Wednesday launched a strident attack on Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee saying her budget speech concealed "gross failures" through "misleading announcements and gimmicks" aimed at the 2011 West Bengal Assembly polls.
The Rail Budget "exposed a sharp deterioration in the performance of the Indian Railways" and the speech "has sought to conceal gross failures through misleading announcements and gimmicks aimed at the forthcoming Assembly elections," it said in a statement and asked the people to protest the budget.
With over 120 railway accidents during this financial year, it was "inexplicable how the allocations for the Railway Safety Fund has been cut by Rs 579 crore from last year", the party politburo said.
"Moreover, the minister has strangely tried to shift the blame for railway accidents on to rail roko agitations and natural disasters. This shows the minister's distorted perspective on the crucial aspect of railway safety," it said.
Earlier, CPI(M) leader in Lok Sabha Basudeb Acharia blamed Banerjee for presenting a budget that would lead to "wholesale privatisation". He said most projects announced for West Bengal would not see the light of the day as had happened with several projects announced last year.
As per the ministry's own estimates, over 1.7 lakh posts were vacant in 2009, of which nearly 90,000 were related to railway safety. Banerjee "has kept completely silent on filling up these vacancies which can provide job opportunities to the youth", the politburo said.
The railway's operating ratio or the ratio of total working expenses to the earnings which was 90.5 per cent in 2008-09 has risen to 94.7 in 2009-10. A higher ratio implies deterioration, the CPI(M) said.
"Such a sharp deterioration in just one year reflects the gross mismanagement of railway affairs by the minister. Gross Traffic Receipts in 2009-10 have fallen short of the budgeted estimate by Rs 63 crore," it said, adding that plan investment had also fallen short of the budgeted target of 2009-10 by Rs 497 crore.
"This clearly shows that the railway minister has not been able to implement the tall promises that she made in the last Budget," the party said, adding that in this context, the "grandiose announcements of projects ranging from hospitals and diagnostic centres, sports academies and museums ring a trifle hollow".
It also said as per her own admission, many of Banerjee's announcements were made without the Planning Commission's sanction. Hence, their implementation was "highly suspect".
Observing that there was a "squeeze" in public investment accompanied by "an unprecedented thrust towards privatisation in all areas in the name of public-private partnership, the CPI(M) said "wholesale privatisation" and "opening up the entire sector for private profiteering will be inimical to national interest".