The railway budget preparation exercise is being hampered due to an unusual reason: Rail Board officials are often travelling to Kolkata to get budget proposals vetted by former railways minister and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
"With just one set of officials with information on budget proposals that have been "cleared", the chain of command in the railways has clearly been disrupted. The fear is that the entire exercise can go awry," a source said.
Amidst the confusion about budget preparation, another critical task is being neglected: Of honouring the commitments that railways minister Dinesh Trivedi and his predecessor handed out to the MPs.
At Banerjee's insistence, the railways set up a coordination committee last month comprising Bengal government officials to oversee implementation of railway projects that she had announced for the state.
"The entire railway officialdom is scampering about to execute Banerjee's agenda... It is unfair that the present railways minister is not allowed to take decisions," former chairman of the railways standing committee Basudev Acharya said.
"The railways minister's response to MPs queries need to be signed by authorised officials, who are mostly travelling to Kolkata with files of budget proposals. It is unlikely that replies can be sent in stipulated time-frame," a source said.
The MPs had raised no less than 200 queries during discussions on the supplementary demands for grants in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on December 13 and December 22, 2011 respectively. Not one reply has been sent to the MPs so far.
Parliamentary procedures require that MPs get official responses within a period of three months. At the start of each session, the parliamentary affairs minister lays a statement on the pending assurances.
Documents available with HT show that a majority of the MPs queries relate to pending projects.