Lalu comes for both bouquets and brickbats

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New Delhi, Dec 1 (UNI) Cutting across party lines, members of the Rajya Sabha today heaped praises on Railway Minister Lalu Prasad for scripting a phenomenal turnaround of Indian Railways, but expressed concern over delay in execution of new rail lines, gauge conversion, shoddy catering and abysmal state of passenger amenities and security.

The members were participating in a discussion on Supplementary Demands for Grants for Railways -- The Appropriation (Railways) No.

4 Bill, 2007 -- piloted by Mr Prasad.

Initiating the debate, BJP member Surendra Lath lauded the Minister for overhauling the railway system with a slew of initiatives during the last three years.

Mr Lath, however, regreted that several projects had been pending for years for want of resources.

Pointing out that the Railways was not merely a commercial organisation as it had also social responsibilities, he said all talks of a railway turnaround would be meaningless if the common people are deprived of its benefits.

In particular, he described as hoax the introduction of Garib Rath trains, saying these trains were still beyond the reach of the poor people.

''It is an insult to the poor people and it would be apt to remove the word 'Garib' from the name of such trains,'' he said.

Mr Lath said the Railway Minister might gloat over the fact that there had been no hike in passenger fares for the last four years.

However, it had been done on the sly by reserving 30 per cent seats in most of the trains under the 'Tatkal' category and by putting some 200 trains in the list of superfast category.

The BJP member also drew attention to lack of drinking water facility in most stations, shoddy catering, passenger security and increasing incidents of train accident.

Mr Lath wanted to know the reasons for the delay in the implementation of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail project, which he described as strategically important.

He also accused the ministry of stepmotherly treatment in sanctioning railway projects in Orissa, and cited lack of progress on Bolangir-Khurda rail project, sanctioned in 1994-95, in support of his contention.

Mr Shantaram Laxman Naik (Cong) protested against the Konkan Railway Corporation's re-tendering stalls at stations, which were given as compensation to those whose land was acquired during the construction of Mumabi-Mangalore rail project.

''It will amount to an act of betrayal on the part of Konkan Rail Corporation,'' he added.

Mr Naik demanded a daily train betwen Delhi to Goa via Vadodara, which is the shortest route to link the two cities.

His two other demands were introduction of video facility and provision of 'Goan fish curry'' in important trains.

Mr Nand Kishore Yadav (SP) said the railways had made a profit of over Rs 20,000 crore, but its benefits had not percolated to the common people.

''The fact is that most of the benefits have been confined to Bihar and some districts of Uttar Pradesh,'' he said.

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