West Bengal has never received so much in a single budget from the railway ministry. Not even when the flamboyant A B A Ghani Khan Chowdhury was railway minister in the 1980s.
Chowdhury was accused of blatantly favouring West Bengal in his railway budgets, apart from giving jobs in the railways to large numbers of youth from his constituency, Malda. “But Mamata didi has outdone him,” said an Eastern Railway official, unwilling to be quoted.
Obviously the assembly elections of 2011 weigh heavily on Banerjee’s mind. She wants to send the clear message that while the Left Front may be ruling in the state, she already has the clout and the capacity to improve their lives.
Bengal’s bonanza in this budget starts with 19 new express trains, a few new railway tracks, a new railway coach factory, a mega power plant, and extensions of the Kolkata Metro, which, though started decades before Delhi’s, has now fallen woefully behind. Many of the state’s railway stations are to be improved, several new railway routes have been promised, a railways run sports complex is planned, the historic public sector Burn Standard Co, manufacturers of railway equipment, but sick for decades, will be revived.
Banerjee even took care to mention the three flashpoints of the state in recent years in her speech: Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh. She has proposed a new railway line that will pass through Lalgarh.
Her biggest gift to the state may well be the proposed state-of–the-art coach manufacturing unit she announced, which will provide considerable employment. Her idea of creating a land bank using the railways’ surplus lands, as well that of reviving institutions will Burn Standard could also help to assuage the fears industrialists have about her. “These are clear indications of her positive attitude to industry,” said Trinamool Congress union minister of state for health, Dinesh Trivedi.
She even had something for village craftsmen and cottage industries. To transfer their products quickly, she promised to introduce ‘Super Fast Parcel Express Trains’ between Howrah and Delhi.