New Delhi: Former railway minister Lalu Prasad had won praise for several mega projects that he announced during his five-year term in the previous Union government, but officials point out that he has not been able to see many of those plans through.
Prasad, a former chief minister of Bihar and known for his rustic wit, had turned around the Indian Railways. By the time his term ended in April, the national rail carrier had registered a surplus of about Rs90,000 crore.
Looking back: Former railway minister Lalu Prasad arrives in Parliament to attend the presentation of the Railway Budget 2009 on Friday. Kamal Singh / PTI
But when it came to building infrastructure such as a dedicated freight corridor and locomotive factories, the Rashtriya Janata Dal party chief has not lived up to his reputation as a dynamic rail minister, according to some officials who served under him.
The criticisms have surfaced even as Mamata Banerjee, current railway minister and chief of the Trinamool National Congress, presented her first rail budget as part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Friday.
A railway board official pointed out that four years since Prasad announced the dedicated freight corridor project—to connect the four metros with an independent freight line—the railways has been not been able to tie up the funds for it.
He and other officials Mint spoke with for this story did not want to be named.
As for the two locomotive factories announced by Prasad in 2006, the plan did not take off as only two companies, General Electric Co. and Siemens AG, submitted bids during the tendering process.
By the time Lalu’s term ended in April, the national rail carrier had registered a surplus of about Rs90,000 crore. Jayachandran
Some companies that had shown an interest in the project complained to the railway board later that they were given too little time to arrive at a bid price. Both these projects have been designated as production units under the railways.
Railway board officials say a new electric locomotive factory may come up in West Bengal.
The railway board under Prasad had also proposed to set up 100 budget hotels but so far, only 27 tenders have been finalized, said another official with Indian Railways.
The railway board has not been able to proceed with plans to develop the New Delhi railway station terminal as modern stations either, because of differences with several state and Central agencies as well as the Planning Commission over the implementation of the project.
“Competition among private players for these projects makes these projects controversial and so railway officers are usually cautious while signing off on policy matters pertaining to the same,” said Ramesh Chandra, a former railway board member.