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SAFETY NEVER SLEEPS

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While performing our duties in the length and breadth of the country, we should always be alert to maintain the highest level of safety and security of Indian railways. I always believe that 'safety never sleeps'. It is our bouden duty not to compromise on safety standards and to ensure security of the travelling millions of fellow countrymen" Mamata Banerjee to Indian Railways' family members

 

RAILWAY ZONES

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Metro Railway

 

 

INDIAN RAILWAYS

Rs.41,426 Cr Plan Investment
Mamata picks up challenges; hawks PPP not privatization

WILL 157-year-old Indian Railways spearhead the reforms without tears that even many a public sector undertakings in the country dared not to do even today? The candid comment of the Railways minister Mamata Bannerjee that of passengers and essential goods and commodities have to be spared from any fare/freight hike, it has to invite country’s corporate sector, investors to invest in the new projects that the Railways either have decided or are intending to take up in near future keeping its Vision 2020 in broader perspective. She is one to place social responsibility over and above every other things and to attain that she has to call for private sector participation in railway projects without diluting the importance and position of the Indian railways as one of the prime movers of Indian economy. PPP model is not anyway sending any message thatRailway is going for privatization, it will remain a Government organization”.

Assuring investment proposals be cleared with 100 days for which a Special Task Force is being set up, Mamata said private investment policy guidelines will be made easy, simple and investment friendly. One could gauge the speed at which and massive funds that would required to spruce up 157-year-old rail network to achieve Vision 2020 : The route-kms of the Railways was 53,596 kms in 1950. After a span of 58 years, it now stands at only 64,015 kms adding just 10,419 kms an annual average of only 180 kms. "Should commercial viability be only criterion to judge this need of connectivity? Or, should social responsibility be an important consideration? I prefer the latter", she told the members of Parliament while presenting Budget on February 24, 2010.

In her Budget speech the minister said the Railways needs connectivity for industries, ports, tourist centres, universities, religious places, coal mines etc. and that is why the Ministry has set a target to add 25,000 kms of new lines in the next ten years as outlined in Vision 2020. For the first time ever, in line with this vision, Railways is planning a major jump to complete 1,000 route-kms of new lines in one year with the limited resources. “This is a path-breaking step, considering the annual average of 180 route-kms of new lines in the last 58 years and 219 route-kms in the last five years”, she said.

An astute politician Mamata Banerjee, chairperson of All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), is back on rails in 2009. For the third time she has become India’s Railways Minister, this time of the Congress(I)-led UPA government. Earlier, in 1999 after joining the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government she became the second woman Railway Minister of country. Earlier, Mohsina Kidwai was the Minister of Transport for a brief period in 1986 which included Ministry of Railways. In 2000, Mamata Banerjee presented her first Railway Budget. On March 16, 2001 she resigned as the Railway minister.

She was recently re-elected to 15th Lok Sabha on her 7th term from Kolkata (Dakshin) constituency in West Bengal.


Born on 5th January, 1955 in Kolkata, Banerjee has obtained degrees of M.A., B.Ed and LL.B. as well as Trained in Work Education. She earlier also held the Railway portfolio as Union Cabinet Minister during 13th October 1999 to 16th march 2001. During her long parliamentary career, she was member of various important parliamentary committees and held several government social and political posts.

Banerjee was the General Secretary of Mahila Congress (I), West Bengal, from 1976 to 1980. In 1984, she was elected to the 8th Lok Sabha for the first time in 1985 she became a member of the committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. She became General Secretary, Indian National Congress (I) in the year 1986. In 1990 she was the President of Youth Congress, West Bengal. In 1991, she was re-elected to 10th Lok Sabha and became Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development (Department of Youth Affairs and Sports; and Women and Child Development). In 1996, she was re-elected to 11th Lok Sabha and was the Member, Committee on Home Affairs and Member, Consultative Committee, Ministry of Home Affairs.

In 1997, she founded All India Trinamool Congress and was elected its Chairperson. In 1998, she was re-elected to 12th Lok Sabha and was Chairman Committee on Railways. In 1999, she was re-elected to the 13th Lok Sabha and became Union Cabinet Railway Minister and later served as the Union Cabinet Minister of Coal and Mines. She was re-elected to 14th Lok Sabha in 2004.

Benerjee is connected with different social and human rights organizations to promote the welfare of poor, children and women; providing free legal aid to the poor and; organizing various health camps for mothers and children.

She has authored a number of books on various themes in Bengali and English which include, Upalabdhi, Ashani Shanket Janatar Darbare, Maa, Pallabi, Manavik, Motherland, Crocodile Island, Trinamool, Sishu Sathi, Anubhuti, Struggle for Existence. Abishasya, Janmaini, Ekantee, Struggle for Existence, Abhisaso, Andolaner Kolkata, Ek Guchcha Bhavna, Smile, Jago Bangla, Anasan Keno, Langer, Gantantra Lazza, Salaughter of Democracy, Ajob Chora and Ma-Matee-Manush. Her love for music, songs, painting and art is also well known.

She has widely travelled to various countries and represented India in UN General Assembly; as a woman parliamentarian at World Women Round Table Conference held at Russia and Woman Youth Conference at Vietnam. She also attended the Working Women Conference of ILO and ICFTU at Kuala Lumpur.


As she claimed in her Railway Budget for fiscal 2010-11, Railways would be saving Rs 2000 crore through rational operational expenses and better financial management. This would be much higher than Rs 400 crore that would have been otherwise generated increasing passenger fares and freight tariffs. Hence no increase in the passenger fares of any class or category of trains. Freight tariffs will also remain the same for 2010-11.

In the perspective of the government’s Look East Policy, neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and the entire North-eastern region of the country assume immense political and economic significance. The rail connectivity would be playing a vital role in fulfilling the Look East Policy objectives. The railways minister has announced a number of initiatives being taken to strengtrhen rail connectivity with these bordering countries that would ultimately benefit the North-East as well. Surveys for five new lines have been conducted for rail connectivity with Nepal. Out of these lines, a new line from Jogbani to Biratnagar would be taken up and gauge conversion of Jayanagar to Bijalpura with extension to Bardibas would be carried out. An agreement between India and Bangladesh has recently been signed to provide rail link between Akhaura on Bangladesh side and Agartala on Indian side. This link would also provide a shorter rail route between West Bengal and the North-Eastern region via Bangladesh.

Indian Railways minister has proposed Rs.41,426 crore, the highest ever plan investment to provide efficient, customer focused and modern railway network. Out of this allocation, Rs.4,411 crore have been proposed to achieve the target of 1,000 kms. for new lines and Rs.1,302 crore for passenger amenities. The Plan would be financed through gross budgetary support of Rs.15,875 crore, Diesel Cess of Rs.877 crore, internal resources of Rs,14,523 crore and EBR of Rs.10,151 crore including market borrowing through IRFC of Rs.9,120 crore.

Keeping social responsibility uppermost in her mind, socially desirable projects connecting backward areas of the country are being taken up. Surveys for 114 projects for such areas will be updated and surveys for 55 new lines will be taken up during the year. 800 km. Gauge Conversion and 700 km of doubling the rail line will be achieved during the year besides a number of new projects on cost sharing with state governments or through PPP route. 52 new train services are being introduced to meet increasing demand of passengers, frequency of 12 train services are increased and destinations of 21 trains are being extended besides introduction of some special trains.

The target has been set to add 25,000 km of new lines in next 10 years. A Special Task Force to clear proposals for investments within 100 days will be set up, policy guidelines will be made easy, simple and investment friendly so that business community can join hands to build partnership with the Railways. But the Minister clarified that this does not mean that Railway is going for privatization, it will remain a Government organization, she asserted.

Highlighting the initiatives taken recently, Railway Minister said that within a span of 7 months, significant achievements have been made. She announced that out of 120 new trains, extensions and increase in frequencies announced in last budget, 117 would be flagged off by the end of 2010. Special drive for improving passenger amenities and cleanliness has been taken up. The Catering Policy is under revision to provide better food, six bottling plants to be set up to provide clean drinking water. 94 new stations will be developed as Adarsh Stations and 10 more stations will be upgraded as World Class Stations. Proposals are made to construct another 93 Multi-functional Complexes and to develop multi-level parking complex through PPP route.

Declaring that passenger amenities is a very high priority of the Government, she said that a number of initiatives are being taken for this purpose. SMS updates of reservation status and movements of wagons to freight customers is being initiated. Double-decker train-sets matching the best in global standards will be introduced in two trains each from Delhi and Kolkata as a pilot project. Modern trolleys at all important stations with uniformed attendants will be introduced to assist senior citizens and women passengers for carrying their luggage. Mobile vans for issuing e-tickets will be extended to government medical college hospitals, High Courts, District Court, University campus, IT hubs, IITs and IIMs. The Railway Minister announced that railway reservation ticket centres will also be opened at district headquarters and village panchayats to give more facility to common man.

In order to bring more transparency in freight business, Railways would introduce RFID technology to tracking of wagons, allotment of the rakes would be accessible through the web.

Railways is developing crashworthy coaches and locomotives and will provide automatic fire and smoke detection system in 20 pairs of long-distance trains as pilot project. Manning of further 1,000 level crossing will be taken up during the budget year. She announced that in coming five years, all the unmanned level crossing will be manned. 12 companies of women RPF, ‘Mahila Vahini’ will be raised for security of women passengers.

Reiterating her commitment for the welfare of railway employees, she said that a new scheme “House for All” will provide residence to all railway employees in the next 10 years with the help of Ministry of Urban Development. 522 hospitals and diagnostic centres, 50 Kendriya Vidyalayas, 10 residential schools on the pattern of Navodaya Vidyalaya, model degree colleges and technical and management institutions of national importance will be set up for the benefit of railway employees. She also proposed extension of ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’ to all licenced porters, vendors and hawkers. She also proposed setting up a Railway Cultural and Heritage Promotion Board and Shambhu Mitra Cultural Complex at Howrah for the employee. Rabindra Museum at Howrah and Gitanjali Museum at Bolpur are also proposed to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, she said.

In order to upgrade railway infrastructure a centre for Railway Research will be set up at IIT, Kharagpur for research in key areas of railway technology and a state-of-the art advanced loco pilot training centre at Kharagpur and an advanced railway track training centre at Beleghata in West Bengal. To overcome of the shortage of coaches, new coach factories are being set up at Rae Bareilly, Kancharapara and Palakkad. A wagon repair shop will be set up at Badnera and a new Rail Axle Factory will be set up at New Jalpaiguri through PPP or Joint Venture mode. Besides 5 state-of-the-art wagon factories also through joint venture and PPP mode at Sikandrabad, Barddhaman, Bhubneshwar/Kalahandi, Guwahati and Haldia. ‘Kisan Vision Project’ for manufacturing refrigerated container for carrying agricultural products so that farmers are not forced for distress sale of their produce.

So far as new initiatives for freight business are concerned, Railways will introduce a modified wagon investment scheme for high capacity general purpose and special purpose wagons for carrying iron ore, coal and cement. A scheme to run special freight train by private operators for commodities such as automobiles, vegetable oil, molasses, chemicals and petrochemicals will be notified. A premium Tatkal Service for parcel and freight movement besides special wagons for iron ore, fly ash, automobiles will also be introduced.

In respect of Railways’ commitment for time bound completion of dedicated corridors, the minister said preliminary Engineering-cum-Traffic Surveys for North-South, East-West, East-South and South-South corridors will be taken up this year. She also said that Railways is also working on high speed passenger rail corridors, a National High Speed Rail Authority will be set up for planning, standard setting and implementing these projects.

In order to promote industrial activity, Railways would welcome investment through PPP mode for providing rail connectivity to important ports. Additional 2,000 kms. routes will be electrified within two years. Work on adding another 12,000 kms. in existing Optical Fibre Cable network of the Railways is in progress. The balance 15,000 kms. is proposed to be taken through PPP mode, thus covering entire railway network.

Announcing upgradation and modernization of Kolkata Metro, the only Metro with Indian Railways, the Minister said that Metro Station at Park Circus, Maidan, M.G. Road, Chandni Chowk and Rash Behari will be remodeled and network will be extended at four sections. The Railway Minister also announced augmentation of sub-urban train services in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.

Kumari Mamata Banerjee proposed special trains – Sanskriti Express, across the country, to mark 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, Matribhoomi Express trains for ladies in Kolkata, Chennai, New Delhi and Mumbai and Karmabhoomi trains, unreserved trains for common people between Darbhanga-Mumbai, Guwahati-Mumbai and New Jalpaiguri-Amritsar. Similarly, Janmabhoomi Trains specially for uniformed persons, between Ahmedabad and Udhampur, Bharat Tirth Trains for tourists connecting popular sites in different parts of the country will be introduced during the year.

Four new Durontos (very high speed) trains would be introduced between Chandigarh and Amritsar, between Chennai and Coimbatore, between Puri and Howrah and between Howrah and Digha.

The minister also announced reduction of service charges maximum to Rs.10 for Sleeper Class and Rs.20 for AC Class. She also announced 100 per cent concession for cancer patients going for treatment together with an escort in AC 3 class. Technicians of regional film industry when traveling for film production related work will also be eligible for 75 percent concession in second sleeper and 50 percent concession on other classes in all trains.Concession under Izzat scheme, for press correspondents and students of madrasas will continue.

Source: Press Information Bureau, Government of India

Updated on February 25, 2010