Lalu aims railways at world no I spot and surplus at 1 lakh crore

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New Delhi, Mar 12 (UNI) Refuting allegations of widespread fudging of the budget figures through financial jugglery and wordsmithry, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today said his intentions in budgetory announcements and fulfilling promises were ''pure and honest'' and all calls of trickery and wizardry were baseless.

Answering to supplementary demands for grants, the Railway Minister said he was aiming at a surplus of one lakh crore when he would demit office at term's end, besides an infrastructure that would Indian Railways 'world's no 1'.

''This I take as my social obligation towards the millions of poor, elderly, and the weaker sections to whom I have tried my best to bring the flavour of the 'rest of India' with the introduction of 'Garib Raths', providing cleaner toilets, offering concessions and better facilities.'' Trashing criticism on rail fare reduction among others, Mr Lalu Prasad while doling out statistics of achievement saying from a begging bowl to vast cash surplus entity, the railways had made a great turnaround under the UPA rule.

''Despite petroleum prices having risen substantially over the years, I did not increase the fare accordingly. Instead, the Railways gave a five per cent reduction in duty on diesel.'' The claims of back-door increase in fares was preposterous as neither front door nor back door increase in passenger fares or frieght had been done, he told the Rajya Sabha.

''Also, despite recommendations to retrench workers, my ministry had managed this without removing even a single worker.'' Besides, accidents at unmanned crossings, which was a crime, would be reduced with the appointment of additional staff, he thundered.

''New trains were being added to swell the coffers for expansion plans and rapid modernisation like elevated platforms, raised platform roofs, cleaner toilets and 25 world class stations.'' Pointing towards the unfair treatment his home state Bihar had received ever since independence despite its great contribution to nation building, Mr Lalu Prasad said the poor and backward from all over, under the UPA rule, were today experiencing cushioned seats, air conditioned travelling and green toilets.

Denouncing NDA rule and the mess it had left the railways in, the Railway Minister said earlier the railways were not even in the market but today everyone was willing to invest in it and added that everyone was all praise for the dramatic turnaround it had shown under the UPA rule.

''The promised dedicated freight corridor would start very soon and all expansion plans would meet their deadline,'' he assured the House.

He also informed the House of starting a new train between Kolkata and Dhaka to strengthen ties between India and Bangladesh and step up people-to-people contact.

A special train from Lucknow to Vaishno Devi, and a regular service between Amritsar-Nanded-Patna for the Sikh pilgrims along with various other trains to link religious and historically important places would be brought, he added.

After the Minister's reply, the House passed the demands for grants on account in respect of the Railway Budget 2008-09 by voice vote and returned it to the Lok Sabha.

With this, Parliament passed the Railway budget 2008-09.

UNI AN-SD PK AS1839

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