552 pair of ears live on the stage...Millions listening on the idiot-box, and for updates here on webspace (though Sachin Tendulkar cruelly overshadowed the spotlight on Mamata and her trains by that epic-script at Gwalior). Railway Budget is a matter of huge interest for the infrastructure-development geeks as well as for the common Indian public.
And as usual after the ritual, the cross-examination begins. The coalition partners haaaaaappy and rapturous, the opposition states frowning, the Commie West Bengal Govt caught in political doldrums even as this was almost a jackpot hit for the state, the experts in media analyzing the pros and cons of the Budget. Afterall we all need some job.
For Kerala? It's a mixed bag. Check out the major promises: (I'm not including the whole list of proposals for Kerala. You can access the entire budget speech from the link provided at the end of the passage)
- 7 new trains
Ernakulam- Mumbai Durando
Ernakulam- Pune Superfast
Trichy- Mangalore Express
Trivandrum- Calicut Jansatabdhi via Kottayam
Trivandrum- Bhopal Bharath Thirth Circuit train
Shornur- Nilambr Passenger
Ernakulam- Kollam MEMU
- 3 Trains extended
Coimbatore- Calicut Passenger extended to Kannur
Trivandrum- Ernakulam Intercity to Guruvayoor
Kochuveli- Yesvantpur Express to Hubli
- New water bottling plant in Trivandrum
- Survey for 5 new lines
Mysore- Thalassery line (approved)
So there! The list is too long is it? May be because it is stuffed with that list of Survey proposals which turn out to be a relaxing 'roam-around and sight-seeing' picnic project for officials. Thank God most of these surveys are not realized, otherwise Kerala would now be having more railway lines than Panchayath roads.
A few proposals for new trains have been made but we were promised a similar list in the last budget as well. Ahmed saar managed to flag-off a few longies but the Durando/ Thurantho/ whatever-you-call-it, promised last year still runs only on paper. Same is the case with trains promised via Nagercoil to Tirunelveli from Trivandrum. Where are they Sir?
Railway Budget is by far the best exercise in India which delivers what it promises, unlike the Union Budget projects, plans and proposals of our Corporations or the ridiculously hollow addresses by the President and Governor in their respective houses. To be fair, Railways most often deliver what they promise, and within a reasonable time frame. There are patches of dead-black soot though.
Kerala CM Mr. Achuthanandan and his Railway in-charge Mr. Vijayakumar are not impressed by Kerala's plate. They are cross at didi that our 'much cherished' Railway Zone has not been granted. A good few high-ranking railway officials from our own state have repeatedly conveyed that an exclusive rail zone is not going to benefit the state much, other than satisfying the misplaced ego of some politicians. We still need more railway lines and also another Division in the state or from our neighbours to constitute the Zone. So we have to set our priorities right, the projects beneficial for the majority of common travelling public should get the chunk of budget allocation.
Only Attukal Radhakrishnan can confirm for sure if all these trains will commence operations before the next rail budget. E. Ahmed deserves an acknowledgment for his efforts; he has done well in the show-off game. Still, the travel woes remain.
After the Venad/ Janasatabdhi leaves Ernakulam at around 1800hrs, there is a 5-6 hour gap before the next one to the state Capital. Hopefully the new Janasatabdhi via Kottayam will solve this issue, we need a train between 1800- 2000hrs when the demand for a South-bound train is still at its peak.
The long standing cry for a better rail connectivity to Bangalore from Malabar/ Trivandrum has yet again been axed down mercilessly. The little blue-birdie says that its the 'Bus lobby', which makes merry in the Malabar- Bangalore route, in which one of our Ministers has a pie as well but shhhh... I didn't tell you this. ;)
Interestingly E. Ahmed has worked for Rail connectivity to 3 Kerala ports viz Azheekkal, Beypore and Thalassery. Something tells me that the Railways missed something big here, or may be its just me. (Survey to the Vizhinjam Harbour line is going on, so I guess it's not an appalling miss)
Malabar may have received a generous hand, especially with the Palakkad Coach Factory receiving final sanction. But the Wagon Factory at Cherthala may well have to wait. Also Ernakulam North has been included in the list threatening to convert it into International Standards. (Trivandrum Central received the red-alert a few years back, still Shankaran is right up there on the Coconut tree).
The MEMU promised between Ernakulam and Kollam is good news but nobody knows for sure how a frequent shuttle service is going to operate on single track between Kayamkulam and Kerala's commercial capital. The doubling works needs to be expedited, if not it will lead to serious delays in the services between Central and South Kerala.
Kochuveli Station woes are sure to continue for another year. The budget has allocated 92 lakhs, probably enough to chop off the grass and clear the shrubs in the enormous wood-lands like area. Something for the NDTV new-age politician to look into seriously.
So an over-all bitter-sweet affair, though nothing much to be too much elated about. Fair-play to E. Ahmed and Mamata for handing over a better token to the state, at least the name Kerala appeared more than once on the Budget speech (unlike when Lalu/Balu/Velu were doing the job). Still its been a dinner without starters or desserts, well that's how I feel. How 'bout you?
Click for Full Railway Budget Speech of Mamata Banerjee.
Kerala Railway map courtesy hampi.in