My budget is pro-people, says Mamata

New Delhi, Feb 25 (PTI) Railway Minister Mamata Banerjeetoday refuted charges that her budget was "populist or WestBengal-oriented" saying she had kept the interest of thenation in mind and given projects to every region.

Countering CPI(M)''s allegations that she had madeRailways bankrupt, she said, "Their government (in WestBengal) is bankrupt. It has Rs two lakh crore debt. Charitybegins at home."

On charges of populism, Banerjee said, "They areopportunist people. If this is pro-people let it be populist.

When they know they cannot fight they make all suchallegations. We have given projects to entire countryincluding Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Assam. Bengal is notoutside India."

She said her opponents were "till yesterday shoutingthat Railways will not be able to pay dividends. Today you seethe magic. Our financial performance is strong. We aresuffering only on account of Sixth Pay Commission. Rememberalmost half of all government employees belong to Railways."

On the proposed rail coach factory in Singur whereprotests by Trinamool Congress led to the shifting of theTata''s Nano project out of the state, she defended the projectsaying it will require only 100 acres of land whereas Tatashad wanted 1000 acres.

Asked how she could manage the finances without raisingfares, she said, "Burdening the passenger is an easy option.

"But our employees tried hard to raise internalgenerations and also undertook a series of austerity measures.

"Our loadings have gone up. Passenger earnings have alsoincreased and next year there will be stronger growth,"Banerjee said.

She blamed ''rail-roko'' agitations and disruptions causedby Maoists for the loss in revenue saying Railways have becomesoft target for all agitations including one by the Gujjars inRajasthan.

"But law and order is not in our hand. It is with thestate government," she said when asked about the train hijackby Maoists last year on the West Bengal-Jharkhand border.

She also referred to the problem in coal loadings inKarnataka and Orissa which caused a loss of Rs 2000 crore.

On PPP projects, she said there are 85 PPP proposalswhich are under consideration. "We are creating a singlewindow system for expeditious clearance of such projects."

Claiming to have made a record of sorts in laying newlines, she said the earlier average of constructing 180 kms ofnew track had been broken. "For the first time in railwayhistory we have constructed 700 km and we will touch 1000 kmnext year," she said.

Asked about the introduction of Super AC class, she saidit is a business proposition to earn more revenue.

The Super AC class will be in addition to existing first,second and third AC.

In her consecutive third Railway Budget, Banerjeerefrained from raising passenger fares.

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