Will the passenger fare rise? Will this year's railway budget have more big projects for Bihar? The queries are haunting everybody's mind these days.
While the mist will clear only on the day of the railway budget, there are indications that Railway Minister Lalu Prasad may announce plans to develop the newly acquired Rohtas Industries campus in Sasaram as a processing-cum-marketing hub of agricultural produce. Vegetables processed from this centre will be supplied to retail outlets in stations across the country.
To elaborate, Lalu had already announced opening of retail vegetable shops in all 7500 stations and it is expected the ambitious plan would figure in this year's budget.
Sources said that Rohtas Industries, spread over an area of 212 acres, was an ideal location to function as a marketing hub-cum-transportation centre owing to its proximity with the Eastern freight corridor between Ludhiana-Kolkata via grand chord section.
"We cannot say with surety what will be announced in the railway budget. But there is a proposal to develop Rohtas industries as a processing centre of vegetables," claimed a senior officer of the ECR.
The eastern corridor will come up in the next few years.
Sources said Indian railways acquired the Rohtas Industries last month at a whopping cost of Rs 140 crore with an eye on developing it as a marketing hub of agricultural produce.
If implemented, sources said the centre would stock vegetables and process it through advanced processing units and subsequently send it to stations where retail vegetables shops would come up.
"Once the retail chains come in stations, farmers will get a ready market for their produce. The idea is to generate employment and earn revenue," said another officer, engaged in formulating the proposal.
Politically too, Lalu may gain by developing the Rohtas industries as a agricultural marketing hub as it would be in tune with railway minister's focus that Bihar's development was possible only by giving a boost to agro-industry.
Incidentally, officials maintained that there was less possibility of announcements of some more mega railway projects in this year's budget.
"Currently, Bihar has railway projects worth Rs 11,000 crore. So, the priority is now on completion of the projects with proper fund allotment," said a source in the ECR.
But sources claimed that Lalu might announce two or three new projects pertaining to laying of tracks in few sections where survey work had been completed.