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Dinesh Trivedi’s shadow looms over Rail Budget debate in LS

New Delhi(PTI): The shadow of Dinesh Trivedi loomed large in the Lok Sabha today during discussion on the Railway Budget 2012-13 with the opposition taking barbs at the Congress-led coalition in the wake of pressure by its allies.

“Since the time the UPA government has been formed, the coalition train in which the Prime Minister is in the engine is being stopped by one and all by frequent pulling of chain and threats of decoupling the compartment,” Sumitra Mahajan (BJP) said.

Initiating the combined discussion on the Railway Budget along with the Demands for Grants (Railways), she said what was witnessed in the last few days was just unprecedented.
“We are reminded of the song ‘Maar diya jaaye, ya chhod diya jaaye” in a Hindi movie during a sequence where the hero was tied,” she said, adding the Railway Minister who spoke of the need to “bite the bullet” has himself been “hit by the bullet”.

Obviously referring to the induction of Mukul Roy as Railway Minister earlier in the day in place of Trivedi, Mahajan said that she was at a loss to understand as to whom she should address as the Minister.

“I am unable to fathom that the Minister who had declared from the rooftops that safety was his top most concern and deaths would not be tolerated on the railways has himself become a victim,” she said noting that the Trinamool Congress chief was “unhappy” with Trivedi.

Hailing some initiatives taken by Trivedi as the Railway Minister, she, however, alleged that he had played a fraud on the nation by raising freight rates substantially through a notification on March 6, just days before the presentation of the Railway Budget.

Interestingly, though Trivedi is a member of the Lok Sabha, he was conspicuous by his absence in the House during the debate.

Mahajan warned that the Railways will go the Air-India way if urgent steps are not taken for modernisation and stepping up investments substantially. This, she said, should be done even through the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) route.

She said this was all the more necessary as the Railway Safety Review Committee headed by Anil Kakodkar has expressed concern over the inordinate delay and insufficient funding of the Railway projects.

In an apparent attack on the opposition, senior Congress member P C Chacko who opened the innings for the ruling side said interested quarters which had tried to spread confusion by projecting that the government was in crisis have been proved wrong.

He said the opposition felt that the Railway Budget will collapse as they did not understand the fact that it was the “property” of the House after its presentation.

Making a defence of the hike in freight and passenger fares effected by Trivedi, Chacko said the rates had not been raised, so it cannot be said that it was an “adverse increase”. Considering the financial health of the Railways, “we should not say that the raise is unreasonable”, he said.

The Congress member also went the extra mile to mollify Mamata Banerjee telling the Left parties that she was the “single woman brigade” who had ousted them from power in West Bengal as she “represents real poor people”.

Noting that there will be a marginal roll back, he told the BJP that they should not unnecessarily be overjoyed following recent developments as Congress and Trinamool will sort out their problems.

He said he salutes Mamata Banerjee for announcing Mission 2020 as Railway Minister last year and its guidelines cannot be ignored.

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