Sushma calls rail turnaround a hollow claim

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New Delhi, Mar 10 (UNI) BJP Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha Sushma Swaraj today launched a blistering attack on the Railway Budget 2008-09 saying the "magical turnaround" as claimed by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad was merely "a hollow claim" and "jugglery of figures".

Initiating the debate on the Railway budget in the House, Ms Swaraj said that while on one hand, it was being claimed that there was no fare hike, but freight, tatkal and sundry charges had gone up. Special projects were being implemented at a tardy pace that it would take 20-30 years for their completion.

Stating that the Railway Minister was indulging in a sleight of hand, Ms Swaraj reeled out figures to substantiate her statement during her hard-hitting speech.

Claiming that the foundation for the Special Railway Fund was laid by the NDA, the member demanded that credit be given to his predecessor Nitish Kumar who had laid the seeds for the turnaround.

In the case of superfast trains, she said 80 per cent had been renamed superfast when they were neither super nor fast but the fares had gone up.

About freight hike, Ms Swaraj said this had been raised many times through notification by as much as 60 per cent. But though the number of passengers travelling by train was up, the share of Railways' was a paltry 8 per cent.

Despite the budget surplus of Rs 25,000 crore, states were being asked to share 50 per cent of the cost of new projects. She wanted exemption for states which could not bear this burden. What had happened to the dedicated food corridor announced in the previous budget, she asked.

The BJP leader also debunked any perceived improvements in arrivals and departures of trains, punctuality, cleanliness which were not reflected in the rail platforms and said the assurances did not stand up to scrutiny and were hollow claims.

Stating that the budgetary proposals were just deceptions, she retorted as Railway Minister rose to defend his budget that "he had not given any food to eat which was why she was suffering from indigestion".

About the charges levelled by the present government against the NDA Government, she said this was far from the truth and suffered from the predecessor government syndrome as borne out by the dividends paid during those years despite the then Finance Minister's contention that it could be deferred.

She demanded that security be made the Railways' motto, introduction of special train to commemorate the 1857 uprising with photos of freedom fighters displayed, AIDS slogans on trains to educate passengers and raising the reservation in the Railway Protection Force from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.

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