The Indian Railways’ success story under Lalu Prasad continues. Now, it is all set to make an unprecedented accumulated cash surplus of Rs 1,00,000 crore at the end of UPA government’s tenure next year.
Announcing this in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, a beaming Lalu said arranging resources for major projects like the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) is no longer an issue as the Railways had substantial funds in its kitty now. So it has decided to go ahead with the eastern and western corridors of the DFC project without worrying about funding from foreign institutions.
“We are not dependent on the Finance Ministry or the government for money any more as we have our own resources,” the minister said, replying to a lengthy debate on the Railway Budget 2008-09, which continued till very late on Monday night.
“Even RSS mouthpiece Organiser has accepted this reality and I thank its editor that he has conceded the truth and praised the transformation in Indian Railways,” he stated.
The minister told the House that the Railways had generated a surplus of Rs 69,000 crore in the past four years. Contrasting this with the performance of the railways under the NDA government, he pointed out that it had failed to pay even a Rs 2,473 crore dividend. Lalu added that his predecessor, Nitish Kumar, had even admitted during his tenure that the railways was in poor shape.
Dismissing allegations that the Railways’ profit was just a mayajaal (illusion) or a jugglery of figures, he invited his critics for a scrutiny of the organisation’s accounts. He told them he had just set the basics right and appointed the right people in right positions. The minister’s speech was delivered in his characteristic style, laced with humour, and drew loud laughter from the members.
Addressing another important concern, the minister assured the House that he would never allow the Railways’ core operations to be privatised. Nor would there be a jobs cut in the railways, he said noting that the previous government had decided to slash employment in the organisation by 10 per cent.
Lalu also announced that the Kolkata-Dhaka train service would be started from April 14, the Bengali new year’s day. Apprising members of various facilities being introduced on trains and stations, Lalu said he was the Railway Minister for the entire country and not just Bihar’s.