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Mamata’s Rail television idea dropped?

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s pet project of setting up a rail television channel has been put in cold storage, as the Railways have virtually rejected the idea.

delhi Updated: May 07, 2012 20:47 IST
Srinand Jha

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s pet project of setting up a rail television channel has been put in cold storage, as the Railways have virtually rejected the idea.

The project was initially put on the backburner by Dinesh Trivedi, who replaced Banerjee as the Railways Minister in July last year.

Present incumbent Mukul Roy has also not demonstrated signs of reviving the plan.

Reason: Banerjee has herself lost interest, as the rail television idea has been subsumed by bigger plans of the West Bengal government to launch a newspaper and a television channel, sources said.

The Trinamool Congress chief’s interest is understood to have shifted to the other popular plan of providing internet facility to passengers traveling on the Howrah Rajdhani – a proposal that is being vigorously pursued by Roy. .

With the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) having provided clearance for the project, it is considered likely that the Railways will be able to meet the September 25 deadline for implementing the plan.

Internet facility using Wi-Fi has been planned in three rakes of the Howrah Rajdhani as a pilot project at an estimated cost of Rs.6.30 crore.

As for the rail television proposal, the Indian Railways Project Management Group (IRPMG) has virtually ruled it out, stating paucity of funds.

The railways have recommended that the required sum of Rs.25 crores (tentative) should be generated through Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives.

On the recommendations of the Sam Pitroda-headed Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts committee, plans for the setting up of a rail television had been announced on September 30, 2010.

The Pitroda committee had put out a strong case for an 18 month timeframe for executing the project – saying that the channel would help in the dissemination of information relating to train running including diversions/cancellations, reservation availability and other information.

The committee recommendations had been accepted by Banerjee, then the Railways minister.