Both BJP, Cong focus on North-East neglect by Railways

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New Delhi, Apr 17 (UNI) Highlighting neglect of North-Eastern region of the country by the Railways, BJP and Congress members today demanded implementation of national projects in the region notwithstanding whether such projects are economically viable or not.

Participating in the resumed discussion and voting on the Demands for Grants (Railways) for 2008-09 in Lok Sabha, Tapir Gao of BJP from Arunachal Pradesh and Dr Thokchom Meinya of Congress from Manipur reminded Railway Minister Lalu Prasad that Railways were not only meant for profit-making. Railways have the important task of integrating the country and, therefore, it should not be only guided by profit motive in undertaking and executing projects in the country's remote region.

Quoting from a Railways documents released on April 4, Gao said paltry sums of a few lakh of rupees were allocated for projects worth multicrores sanctioned by the Railways in the last few decades. He said if Arunachal was well connected with the rest of the country by the Railways the state's immense hydro power potential could be exploited for the nation's benefits. He lamented that coaches condemned for use elsewhere in the country were run in the region.

Dr Meinya said a well-connected North-East would open up immense opportunities for the country for trade with south east Asian region. He demanded the Railways to recruit 50 per cent local people while giving employment.

Mr Alakesh Das (CPI-M) demanded that railway overbridges in the country be built with the Centre and states sharing cost in 75:25 ratio as against 50:50 ratio now. He urged the Railways not to go for public-private-partnership(PPP) model in core sector of its operations.

Mr Iliyas Azmi(BSP) urged Mr Lalu Prasad not to confine himself to Bihar's welfare and be magmanimous in expending largesse across the nation to benefit people. He sought Azamgarh-Mumbai train.

Mr Prasanna Acharya (BJD) urged the Railways not to obstruct construction of roads because it could not provide for manned railway crossings in Orissa. He also urged the Railways not to insult Oriya language while putting up signages in his state. He also appealed to the Minister to shun his ''parochial attitude'' and recruit people from across the country. He alleged boys from a particular state were given preference by the Railways during recruitment for category ''D'' posts.

Mr Shankhlal Majhi (SP) demanded opening of railway crossing or construction of a subway at Akbarpur for convenience of public. He said closure of the crossing to people after construction of an overbrdige was leading to accidents as the bridge has no footpath.

He said four people had died in four months because people, including school children, were forced to use heavy traffic-laden bridge.

Mr Madan Lal Sharma (Cong) demanded carving out of an independent Jammu division out of the existing Ferozepur division.

Mr Lakshman Singh (BJP) lambasted the Railways for having added only half a km a day of track in 60 years. He said the Railways built only 920 kms of track as against target of 1310 kms during the 10th Plan. Similarly, it could execute only 45 per cent of track renewal target during the Plan period. He urged the Railways to use its newly-acquired power to acquire land for implementing its projects across the nation instead of relying on state governemnts.

Mr Singh said time has come to give up the practice of a separate railway budget, alleging it was being used as a political instrument.

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