For the first time in 13 years, Bihar has failed to get the lion’s share of the goodies announced in the Railway Budget.
To add insult to injury, state capital Patna does not figure in the list of 50 cities that will get “world class stations”, despite being on an earlier short list prepared for the purpose. However, Gaya, also in Bihar, finds a place on that list.
Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has also put predecessor Lalu Prasad’s dream projects – diesel and electric locomotive factories at Marhaura and Madhepura, respectively – and several others, on hold.
“These projects are on hold. We are not acquiring any more land in the absence of fresh directives from the Railway Board,” General Manager, East Central Railway, Girish Bhatnagar told HT.
Since 1996, politicians from Bihar have had a near monopoly over the railway portfolio. First LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, then current Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and finally RJD chief Lalu Prasad held the portfolio during this period with just a one-year break in 2000-01.
These leaders invariably announced massive projects in Bihar and gained politically from their employment generation potential. For example, former railway minister Lalu Prasad had announced projects worth more than Rs 52,000 crore for Bihar.
But this year, Bihar has to remain content with four new trains, an increase in the frequencies of three existing trains and gauge conversion announcement in two rail sections.
Banerjee, who had earlier held this portfolio in 2000-01 in the Vajpayee government, has also included the Biharsharif, Madhubani, Patna Sahib, Sitamarhi and Sultanganj stations in Bihar in the list of 375 stations that will be developed as adarsh (model) stations.
The Railways had proposed to build massive railway infrastructure, including factories, bridges, new lines and a host of other projects, in Bihar.
With a change of guard at Rail Bhavan — and with West Bengal replacing Bihar as a favoured state — the fate of this massive investment plan hangs in balance.