The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The railway budget of 2006-07 presented to parliament today shows a better financial health of the railways in comparison to the previous years. Obviously, based on this, the railway minister has announced the introduction of 55 new trains and extension of the routs of 37 trains. It is welcome that no further burden has been put on the people. Catering to the middle and upper middle class the railway minister has announced a reduction of 10 per cent for II AC and 18 percent for I AC tickets. Now III AC trains called “Garib raths” have been introduced. The conversion of 200 trains to the superfast category however may imply higher costs for regular travelers who now need to pay the superfast fares. The 50 percent concession announced for the farmers and dairy product producers is welcome.
However, it is unfortunate that despite the financial health of the railways and projections of higher passenger and freight traffic in the coming year, there is no provision of acquisition of rolling stock particularly locomotives and coaches. A disconcerting aspect of the budget is proposals concerning public-private partnership in the railways. There are suggestions to privatize the maintenance and cleaning of stations, ticketing centers and outsourcing the modernization of various aspects of the railways to private parties. This has been done despite the fact that the public sector units under the railways are perfectly capable of undertaking these tasks. Clearly, the budget seems to be implementing the controversial Rakesh Mohan committee recommendations which suggested the virtual privatisation of the entire railways. This is not acceptable.
The freight corridor policy announced in the budget appears inconsistent with the assurance given by the Prime Minister from the Red Fort on the last independence day that a dedicated rail freight corridor would be developed. The concept was for the railways to develop along the Golden Quadrilateral highway and its diagonals a dedicated freight corridor. These freight corridors were to ultimately connect with the major metros and the major sources of raw material like mineral resources with major ports. It is therefore perplexing that the eastern corridor stops at Sonnagar instead of proceeding to Kolkata and its ports. This is an inadequacy which needs to be immediately rectified.
The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) calls upon the railway minister to assure the parliament and the people that such inadequacies would be corrected during the course of the discussions on the budget and more emphasis will be laid for improving the safety of the railways.