CPI (M) cautious about Railway budget

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New Delhi, Feb 26 (UNI) The Polit Bureau of the Communist party of India (Marxist) has made a cautious statement of the 2008-09 Railway budget proposals presented in the Lok Sabha by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The party in a press statement here today has said the Railway budget has some positive features. The reduction in passenger fares is a welcome step. In a situation where people are suffering from all round price rise the reduction in passenger fares provides some relief.

However, the reduction in second class fares upto Rs 50 by Rs one is only tokenism. Freight rates for petrol and diesel have been reduced by around 5 per cent, which is a correct step. The appointment of licensed porters as gunmen and other Group D posts announced in the Railway Budget is a positive step. But more initiatives should have been taken to fill up the vacancies in Railways, which amount to over 1.5 lakhs and also absorb the contract workers working in various projects.

The number of new trains announced in the Railway budget is more than last year's but the number of route extensions is less.

However, some states have faced discrimination, especially the North Eastern States and Jammu and kashmir, which is bound to give rise to discontentment. The targets set for 2008-09 for new lines of 350 Kms and gauge conversion of 2150 Kms, doubling of 1000 Kms and electrification no target announced are too low given the substantial financial resources available and reflects the continuing delay in project planning and implementation.

The outlays and targets set for enhancing safety and security in Railways have not matched the claims made in the Railway Minister's speech. There is no room for complacency on this count given the still high number of railway accidents and railways becoming a target of terrorist attacks.

The Railway Minister has continued with the disturbing drive towards privatisation of container trains and depots, outsourcing of railway services and privatisation of railway property in the name of Private-Public Partnership (PPP).

The CPI (M) is opposed to these privatisation measures announced in the Railway budget and demands that they be not taken forward, the statement added.

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