BJP, Left, SP flay ''anti-people'' rail budget

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New Delhi, Feb 26 (UNI) The Left allies of the UPA government today joined the BJP and other opposition parties in coming down heavily on the Railway Budget 2008-09 calling it ''anti-people''.

The Left parties, however, welcomed the announcements on reduction in passenger fares and keeping intact the freight structure.

Dubbing the Railways Budget proposals presented by Railways Minister Lalu Prasad as ''very disappointing'', the BJP said it had offered ''only marginal relief'' to the 'aam aadmi' and the reaction of members cutting across the party lines from all regions showed how badly the country had been let down.

''Over 70 per cent of the minister's new trains announcements made in the last budget were yet to be implemented and not a single unmanned level crossing had been replaced with manpower.

He speaks of world class stations but the reality is that the status of railway stations in the country was primitive without upkeep, toilets without water,'' BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra said.

He said nothing had been said about millions of slums on the Railways properties while the incidents of theft and dacoity on the wheels were on the rise. Passenger amenities remained the same and almost all his previous budget promises remained unfulfilled.

The BJP leader said Mr Prasad had spoken of lowering ticket prices but was making money just by changing the nomenclatures of several existing mail or night trains as superfast express simply to levy 20 per cent extra fares.

Left parties resented that Mr Prasad had chosen to carry forward the ''disastrous agenda'' of privatisation even as they welcomed his announcements on reduction in passenger fares and keeping intact the freight structure.

Talking to UNI, the top leadership of the CPI(M) and CPI said the Railway Budget was found wanting on several counts, mainly in addressing the concerns of the ''aam aadmi'' who travelled in local and suburan trains.

CPI leaders A B Bardhan and Shamim Faizi said Mr Prasad had totally ignored ''the mal-practices and discomfort'' caused by the continued privatisation of various services and facilities in the Railways.

''The concessions offered in fare will simply get nullified with the high cost of services that have been mostly privatised.

Similarly, he has not made any promise to restore the facilities offered to the passengers that have been curtailed during the past two years,'' Mr Bardhan, the veteran Communist and CPI General Secretary said.

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