Sir, I was always under the impression that God will never lie, that God will always tell the truth. But recently I was beginning to wonder whether Prabhu ji always speaks the truth and nothing but the truth. So I was a little worried about this when I went through his Budget speech, and thought I should start by attacking him because he did not speak all of the truth in this. Sir, but then in the reply to his Budget speech in the Lok Sabha, this is what somebody had said.
“One of the persons whom I admire most and also really love and respect is Mamata Banerjee. I am very happy that there has been such a consistency in thinking like this. I should be very happy to say that Indian Railways is trying to take forward the ideas and the philosophies of Kumari Mamata ji”
Who said this? I am not quoting any Trinamool spokesperson. I am quoting the Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu ji. So at the end of it all Prabhu ji does speak the truth. This is what he had said in the Lok Sabha a few days ago. It is very gracious of Prabhu ji to give credit where it is due because otherwise I was going to point out to him, if he had not given the clarification, that there was a major typographical error in his Budget as he spoke about a Vision 2030 document, which he is going to table and discuss.
I was wondering whether that was a typographical error because all of those points of the Vision 2030 document are taken from the Vision 2020 document of a previous Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee.
Now that Prabhu ji has been very gracious to acknowledge the Vision 2020 document, I will give you a few examples of what he said is in his 2030 document and what was in the Vision 2020 document which was done earlier by Mamata di.
Quickly, some points:
- Rs 8.5 lakh crore investment in Railways in the next 5 years, said by the Minister. Vision 2020: Rs 14 lakh crore to be invested in the Railways in 10 years; 64% of it to be raised through the PPP model.
- He spoke about Operation 5 Minutes for booking unreserved tickets. Vision 2020 talks about 5 minutes to book a ticket in any category.
So like this, there are many examples – bio-toilets (Vision 2020 document had green toilets), high-speed corridor (also in Vision 2020).
He has copied, but we don’t mind that he has copied, as what he has copied is from the Vision 2020 by Ms Mamata Banerjee. I have no issues that he has copied. I am supporting these points. I am supporting the point he has said about 6,000 km being quadrupled; this is also what has been said in Vision 2020.
Okay, now he says, Mamata Banerjee has only talked about it and now we are implementing. Now I was in a good mood all this time. Suresh Prabhu ji, now that you have come, I will give you some more numbers and show you how she had implemented better than you, okay?
Now let me make the point which was not part of my original speech. Now I must make it. The point about who implemented better.
Let’s look at doubling – last year, your predecessor did 700 km but in 2010-11 what was done was 780 km, 15% better. In new lines, last year, 300 km, 2010-11, 710 km. These are not my number, these are Indian Railways numbers. Last year, freight loading grew by about 5%, in 2009-10 it grew by 6.6%. Growth in passengers, this is a shameful figure. I will not blame Suresh Prabhu ji for the figure because maybe that is why they brought Suresh Prabhu ji to do the job. Since you said you are doing better, here are the figures for passenger growth: 5% in 2009-2010 by the Railway Minister, the lady, while last year, it was a negative growth in passengers originating.
So if you look at the hard numbers, the Railways last year did not do too well. Mr Prabhu has some dreams and I want to make four quick points before I go into the specifics.
One, the Railways Minister did not announce any new trains on the floor of the Lok Sabha nor did he give us too many details on this. The problem with that, we believe, is that we, the 800 members of Parliament, who represent a billion people, are the shareholders, so why not put some more detail in the Budget and why hide everything, or share everything in the pink book. I do not know how many MPs have seen the pink book but this pink book has more details than the Budget. I was going to say the devil is in the detail but with God being the Minister, I should not use that phrase. It would have been inappropriate.
But on a more serious note, the Budget is a statement of intent. We believe that the Budget needs to be a statement of action. Statement of intent is good but where is the action? Instead of addressing some basic issues (the lady before this was speaking very nicely), we are talking about electronic conveniences; we are talking about some outlandish ambitions. Very good, talk about all that, but let’s address the basics. Overall, no source of funding mentioned, at least not here, not in the pink book too. Maybe the Minister has got an idea to come up with some source of funding.
Now, at Trinamool Congress we always believe, if we want to criticise you, we will criticise you, but before we come to criticising you, give you some ideas for free. The problem with giving you some ideas for free is, we gave one or two of these ideas to the Railways Minister last year, but he chose not to implement those ideas, for whatever reason, and see what has happened to him today.
So maybe, Prabhu ji, your train will run longer than one year, it will be a long distance express, for at least four years.
This Government talks a lot about reforms. We will reform the system, we will reform Railways, very well. The problem is, when you give subsidies to the corporate sector, you call it reform. When you give money to the poor people, than you call it subsidy. If you want to implement reform, we are giving you three or four ideas for some serious reform.
First, on the accounting system of the Railways. The Railways uses an accounting system going back to 1921. There was a British gentleman called Mr Acworth. Mr Acworth was asked to head a committee. Mr Acworth came up with his recommendations, they worked for four years from 1921 and in 1925, those Acworth Committee recommendations were announced, and after that the first Railways Budget was announced. Now the entire system for accounting – how you calculate tickets, what are the broad accounting heads – is based on an architecture a 95-year-old accounting system set up. So if you are looking for reform, Mr Rail Minister, please re-look at the system of the Railways which is based on antiquity, on the Acworth Committee report.
The second one. Once again we are trying to bring you back to the focus. Social responsibility has to be combined with financial viability. Mr Chairman, Sir, through you I want to tell the Railway Minister, we understand and appreciate that financial viability is important, but social responsibility is extremely important. We heard a lot of talk about Duronto, Satabdi and a lot of other fast trains. Ninety-six per cent of the passengers do not travel on those trains. I am not saying that do not give good service to the 4% of the passengers, please give. Your idea of the mobile charger on the general class is a good idea. But focus your ideas on the 96%.
Diesel prices have come down by 25%, but you have chosen not to bring the prices down. We say a firm ‘no’ to FDI in Railways. Your LIC idea is a way better idea than going into FDI.
I spoke about passengers. Now let me give some free ideas for freight. Let me tell you my idea about freight. Nitin Gadkari ji was sitting just beside you. I think you made a mention in the Budget speech that the Railways is trying to tie up with Aerotrain and trying to merge Railways and Aerotrain. Freight in the Railways has come down from 60% to something like 30%. This is a big loss. We are telling you, please do not compete with roads. You are losing out to road, you know the reasons, and your tonnages are big. I will come to that point later, but the point I want to make here is that you have to stop competing with roads and become a partner of the roads. Like Procter & Gamble (P&G), you should become Prabhu & Gadkari (P&G). Both of you have to work together.
One of the ideas, which have been forgotten, is an idea which has been tested on the Konkan Railway. It is an idea called RORO. Roll On, Roll Off. What is the concept of Roll On, Roll Off? The bottom rows of the wagon are actually like wheels, so that you can roll on and roll off. The message here is partner with the roads; otherwise you will be losing and losing and losing on freight.
The second suggestion we have is, please take a look at booking smaller consignments. Today, for the Railways, booking a consignment which is 1,000-1,500 tonnes will be difficult. Where you are actually losing out is that you are not allowing people to book smaller consignments. Today, a railway wagon has a capacity of 60 tonnes and the total capacity for 10 wagons will be 600 tonnes. Our suggestion is, you bring the minimum down, partner with road. If you do not grow freight, you will not solve the issue.
Sir, I genuinely want you to look at the ideas, because you have been gracious in acknowledging the Vision 2020 document. I would go on to say that, the Vision 2020 document has been upgraded to Vision 3030.
I now come to a little bit of pain about my State. Three years ago, my State got Rs 10,000 crore. Last year, the figure dropped down to Rs 5,000 crore. This year the figure stands at something between Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 3,000 crore. So you can imagine the fate of all those projects which are caught up.
Interestingly, all the metro projects in the country are independent. The one metro which comes directly under the Railways is the Kolkata Metro.
I will give you a few big numbers. Deputy Chairman, Sir, through you I would like to inform the Minister that the project cost of the East-West Metro is Rs 5,000 crore but you have sanctioned is only Rs 500 crore. The project is in the heart of the city.
In the Kolkata Metro, for the Noapara-Barasat Rs 2,000 crore project, you have gives us Rs 100 crore. Dumdum-Baranagar-Noapara-Airport: Project cost Rs 400 crore, you have sanctioned only Rs 50 crore. Baranagar-Barrackpore: It is a lifeline project. The project cost is Rs 1900 crore, but you have given us Rs 80 crore. I will tell you a few more, so that you will understand that I am telling you the numbers in a very genuine way.
For Airport-New Garia, the project cost is Rs 3300 crore, we have got only Rs 240 crore. Joka-BBD Bag has a project cost of Rs 2400 crore, we have got only Rs 70 crore. For Kolkata Circular Railway, the project cost is Rs 400 crore, but you have allotted Rs 2 crore. All these projects are very badly stuck.
We are not asking you for new projects. We are going back to your thinking, to clear the existing projects. Unless you clear the existing projects, it becomes very difficult.
I will come to some workshops, which are in the middle of getting ready. In Kanchrapara, there is a new rail coach factory. Rs 840 crore is the project cost and you have only allotted Rs 8 crore in the Pink Book. That is why we are very disappointed with the Pink Book.
You keep on saying, look east. But if you say look east, and then give Rs 8 crore out of Rs 838 crore, it is sad. You have given Rs 1 crore out of the Rs 100 crore for the Kharagpur Workshop, zero out of the Rs 146 crore for the Noapara Workshop. Dankuni Railway Equipment Factory, only Rs 2 crore out of Rs 40 crore, and Liluah Workshop, only Rs 5 crore out of Rs 96 crore. Sir, you all are saying, ‘look east’, but we are beginning to wonder, whether this is ‘look east’ or ‘bluff east’.
There are a few other projects which are really stuck, Sir. I do not want to take the precious time of the House, Sir, because another speaker from our party will speak and will take 6-7 minutes.
For Shambhu Mitra Cultural Centre, for Garden Reach Nursing College and Hostel, I would urge the Minister to please look at the big picture and give allocations.
We are not asking for new trains, we are not asking to increase trains, from two days to four days. We are not asking you for anything unreasonable. We are saying that these are projects which were sanctioned in the past; please help us to complete the projects. I think this is in line with your thinking.
I would like to raise two small points, Sir, besides all these money numbers. I can’t give you financial justification for either of the next two points, Mr Minister, but I hope I can give you an emotional justification. You can look into these two, if not rationally, but at least emotionally.
One is the beautiful heritage Darjeeling train, which takes you to the hills of Darjeeling in a steam engine. Please give some money to keep the heritage of our great country going. The second one is the killing of elephants on train tracks.
Deputy Chairman, Sir, we believe we have given you some suggestions on passengers and on freight. We have given you a clear suggestion on accounting. We have highlighted all the projects in your thinking, without asking for new money, to pump in some money for West Bengal. If you like a more detailed discussion, we can sit tomorrow or the day after, on these projects.
Prabhu ji, these suggestions have not only come to you from a Member from an Opposition party, or a Member of Trinamool Congress, or a member of a party that had a few Railway Ministers in the past. These have come to you from a child of the Railways. My grandfather worked for the Railways for long. My mother had seven brothers, five of whom worked for the Railways, and who have recently retired. My two generations have worked for the Railways. The Anglo-Indian community has a long connect with the Railways.
I want to thank Mamata di, who had given me the opportunity to be the Chairman of the Passenger Services Committee for two-three years, when she was the Minister. I passionately feel about the Railways. I hope you will take the suggestion in that spirit. We thought this through; we have shared with you and now, please help Bengal.
Thank you very much.