By Shine Jacob
The new Minister of State for Railways, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, is batting for a rollback of Mamata Banerjee’s initiatives at the ministry, such as jobs for people whose land has been acquired, coach factory at Tata Motors’ land in Singur, etc. However, the Congress stalwart from West Bengal clarified that other projects from the state would not be affected. He said that he has told the railway board chairman that the change of ministers should not affect projects in the state.
Talking about the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief’s idea to offer job for one member of a each family whose land has to be acquired, Chowdhury said, “Her plan to offer job for land was not a pragmatic idea. We want it to be removed. For example, for a small stretch of land of about 15km in Bengal, Railways had to consider more than 2,000 people. For an organisation like Railways, it is not feasible.”
The change of guard at the ministry happened with the TMC pulling out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at Centre. In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Pawan Kumar Bansal took over as railway minister and Chowdhury, a known Mamata critic, as his deputy.
“For the sake of populism, she (Banerjee) had taken Railways for a ride. How can she announce a project for a coach factory on Tata Motors’ Singur land when the issue is sub judice? I don’t think it is going to happen. For most of her plans, she had no idea about where to find the funds from,” said Chowdhury.
Banerjee and her successor, Mukul Roy, were adamant that they would set up the coach factory on Tata’s 600 acres in Singur. Banerjee had even announced at Writers’ Building that SAIL was going to do the project. Chowdhury also hinted at a fare hike. “Unless there is a hike, the development projects will have to be stalled and we cannot let it happen. Because of her (Banerjee’s) moves, the accumulated funds of Railways got exhausted.”
Apart from showering many projects to the state including the Singur coach factory, water bottling plant at Farakka, axle factory at New Jalpaiguri, wagon factories at Bardhaman and Haldia, and a refrigerated container unit at Budge Budge, the TMC had allotted 29 out of the total 176 trains to the state in 2011-12.