Opposition in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday continued its tirade against the government for merging the rail and the general budget, saying the importance of the transportation behemoth has been undermined and there was no roadmap for its development.
Participating in the resumed discussion on Demands for Grants of Railways Ministry for 2017-18, NCP's Tariq Anwar and SP's Dharmendra Yadav questioned the decision. But BJP's Ravindra Kumar Roy said it has helped to pull the Railways out of "cheap populist measures" which successive Railway Ministers had to indulge in.
Anwar said by merging the Railway Budget with the general budget, the importance of railways has been undermined and the age-old tradition has been done away with for an entity, which transports three crore people daily.
He claimed that no roadmap was presented in the Union Budget for the Railways. "Time will only tell whether the merger was a right decision," he said.
Dharmendra Yadav (SP) was also of the opinion that the government should not have merged the two budgets as the importance of Railways has declined.
However, Ravindra Kumar Roy (BJP) said the government was right in merging the two budgets as railways had become a "symbol of cheap populist measures of successive governments".
He claimed the Railway Ministers gave sops to the states they belonged to in the successive Railway Budgets.
G Hari (AIADMK) and Virendra Kumar (BJP) also spoke during the debate which saw largely empty benches in both treasury and opposition sides.
Expelled RJD member Rajesh Ranjan alleged that booking of tickets involved a big racket in which touts are active. He demanded special coach for labourers and daily wagers commuters.
Ranjan also pitched for separate coaches for women passengers in every train and said the government should purposefully utilise vacant rail land and infrastructure.
Opposing catering by private parties in trains, he asked why IRCTC, which supplies food to the Parliament canteen, was not being asked to do so in trains.
Asserting that Indian Railway was the lifeline of the country, N K Premchandram (RSP) said the merger of Rail Budget with General Budget was a violation of a resolution of the Constituent Assembly of 1949.
Constituent Assembly had resolved that Rail finances would remain separate from general finance.
Seeking a clarification, he said, "with the merger of the Budget, what happens to the fate of Railway Convention Committee."
Sushil Kumar Singh (BJP) raised the issue of very high cancellation charges, especially for the sleeper segment. Citing an example, he said, for a Rs 605 ticket, the cancellation charge stood at Rs 465.
P C Mohan (BJP) demanded that the Railways should consider running suburban trains for Bangalore so that the traffic congestion is tackled.
P D Rai (Sikkim Democratic Front) hoped that Sikkim will be connected with the rail network in the next two years. Sikkim is the only state which is not connected to the railways, he said.
Naranbhai Kachhadia (BJP) lauded the government's decision to club rail and finance budgets as a "bold move" while Aparupa Poddar (TMC) questioned the merger saying it has not gone down well with the commuters association.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdury (Congress) alleged that the West Bengal was being discriminated by the Narendra Modi government as he sought to grill the government over rising number of accidents.
Rammohan Naidu (TDP) demanded a seperate a railway zone for Andhra Pradesh, to be based in Visakhapatnam, as promised under the AP Reorganisation Act.
Dushyant Chautala (INLD) lauded the railway ministry for sanctioning a line to connect his constituency of Hisar to Chandigarh.
Others who participated in the debate included Bhairon Prasad Mishra (BJP), Dharamvir Gandhi (AAP), and Lakhan Lal Sahu (BJP), Kaushalendra Kumar (JD-U), Rajesh Pandey (BJP) and Darshana Jardosh (BJP).