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Lok Sabha passes railways' demand for grants amid sharp verbal attacks
Ashwini Vaishnaw
Image credit: UNI

Lok Sabha passes railways' demand for grants amid sharp verbal attacks

| @indiablooms | 16 Mar 2022, 07:27 pm

New Delhi/UNI: The demand for grants for railways was passed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday amid sharp attacks by Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on the Congress and TMC for their criticism of the performance of the sector under the Modi government.

Vaishnaw, in his statement in the house following a marathon discussion by members on the demand for grants of the railways budget, referred to PM Narendra Modi's childhood as a tea seller on Indian railways stations, to take potshots at the Congress.

He said PM Modi's life has been connected to the railways from a young age.
“He works day and night for the nation, while their leader goes off on holidays,” Vaishnaw said in a reference to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's reported foreign jaunts.

He said that Indian Railways was losing market share rapidly over the years, and the Modi government has focused on cleanliness first, up-gradation of railway technology, modernization of trains and world-class stations.

On the criticism of merging the railway budget with the General Budget, Vaishnaw said that lack of investments in the Indian Railways is a key problem.

He said that investment in railways had doubled, at Rs 99,500 crore, and the aim was for over Rs 3 lakh crore investment.

On electrification, he said it is being done in mission mode, and targeting the Congress, he said earlier it was 608 km per year, and now it is over 3,000 per year.

The Modi government is also focusing on taking the railways to the northeast with speed, and laying tracks at the rate of 194 km/year, which is three times that before 2014, he said.

On the freight corridor, the Minister said that from 2009-2014, when Congress-led UPA was in power, they had commissioned “zero” km of freight line, while the present govt has completed 1,010 km.

He said the railway's recruitment was being done “without corruption”, compared to earlier.

“Our PM has lived a life of poverty and seen what a railway line and platform looks like, unlike the privileged few,” targeting the Congress again. “Today Indian Railways is moving forward with new energy and purpose,” he said, adding that the aim is to increase the passenger numbers from the present 800 crores a year to 1,000 crores, along with an increase in safety and comfort; and to increase the freight from 1,400 million tonnes to 3,000 million tonnes a year.

To the Congress asking how the government was planning to roll out 400 Vande Bharat trains, he said that manufacturing is being increased, with four trains a month being rolled out from September last year, to be increased to eight-month, and the Rae Bareli and Kapurthala factories being enhanced.

“400 trains will be there in the next three years, there will be no need to import trains,” he asserted.

On safety, he said the railways' safety mechanism Kavach had got the SIL 4 level international safety certification. He also said the railways was increasing wagon availability to ensure that it is useful for moving food grains, fertilizer, minerals, coal and that there is no waiting period.

On the TMC saying that bullet trains cannot be run on Indian soil, Vaishnaw said that "doubts have been cast on India's capability of hosting bullet trains".

“Those who talk of Ma, Mati, Manush, they themselves don't have faith in Ma and Mati,” he said, targeting the TMC on its party slogan.

Following the uproar over this attack, Speaker Om Birla said that the Minister had sat for 13 hours during the discussion and criticism and heard everyone's point of view quietly and there was no need to disturb his speech.

Vaishnaw said that 99 per cent of land acquisition had been done for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, and 750 pillars erected, and every month 8 km is being added to it.

To criticism that India's soil cannot run bullet trains the Minister said that “We should have faith in our engineers and technology”.

He said the Vande Bharat trains are being upgraded to 200 km/hour. When the Opposition persisted with its uproar, Speaker Om Birla warned against any member destroying the decorum of the house.

On allegations by the TMC that West Bengal is being neglected, the Minister said that 18 railway projects are languishing in West Bengal due to lack of cooperation of the Bengal government, and added that land for projects can only be provided by the state government – a major point of contention as projects in West Bengal are not moving due to lack of land acquisition.

He also said that 3,44,646 railway appointments had been done and the process for one lakh 713 posts is ongoing.

He also dismissed apprehensions of privatization of railways terming it “pure hypothetical point”.

“There is no plan for privatisation of Indian Railways,” he stated, describing the railways as a strategic sector that has a lot of social obligations. 

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