Bharuch, Gujarat, Jun 29 (UNI) Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today announced free railway passes to all girl students up to graduation.
The minister announced this while laying the foundation stone for gauge conversion of 62 km Bharuch-Dahej and 62.89 km Ankleshwar- Rajpipla sections at Samni, about 20 km from here.
The two gauge conversion projects are estimated to cost Rs 230 crore and Rs 197 crore, respectively.
The Railway Ministry, he said, was formulating an ambitious plan to help link major rivers in the country by laying pipelines on either side of its 64,000-km long tracks spread across the country.
''The idea behind linking the rivers is to provide water for irrigation and drinking water to people living in water-starved areas. Railways have enough land on either side of the tracks, which can be used to resolve the water crisis in the country,'' he said.
Mr Prasad said the railway's turnaround during the last four years had received worldwide attention for having created a surplus fund of Rs 69,000 crore without any hike in fares.
''I will take this surplus fund to the Rs 1,00,000-crore mark before the end of the UPA government's term next year,'' he asserted.
Describing Railways as the lifeline of India, he said his Ministry had decided to do away with all the narrow and meter gauge tracks by undertaking conversion projects in a phased manner.
The Minister denied allegations that Gujarat was being discriminated with regard to sanction of railway projects. During the last four years of the UPA rule at the Centre, projects worth Rs 14,448 crore had been completed in Gujarat and 38 new projects worth Rs 6,600 crore were under construction, he claimed.
The Bharuch-Dahej gauge conversion would connect the upcoming Dahej port on south Gujarat coast to the Indian railway network under the National Rail Vikash Yojana (NRVJ), while Ankleshwar-Rajpipla gauge conversion project, when completed, would act as a catalyst to boost the socio-economic growth of this tribal region, he said.
MORE UNI SS SSS SBC UCS2252