New Delhi: Apparently stung by criticism that her absence from cabinet meetings suggested that she was neglecting her ministry, railway minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday set out a road map for her budget day announcements as well as for long-pending expansion and modernization projects.
Banerjee said an expert committee on financing—which she constituted after she took over charge in May this year—had submitted its initial report.
The committee, headed by Amit Mitra, secretary general, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or Ficci, suggested, among other things, detailed time frames for each project, while also proposing a relook at projects that had been stalled for various reasons.
Clearing the air: Mamta Banerjee said on Monday that an expert committee on financing had submitted its initial report. Ramesh Pathania / Mint.
The expert committee said 12 of the 64 planned multifunctional complexes—Rampurhat, Bardhaman and Digha in West Bengal, Alappuzha in Kerala, Raipur in Chhattisgarh, Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, Madurai, Hardwar, Jammu, Udaipur, Mysore and Indore—could be completed within the next six months. Land for these projects, which is to be developed by the railways itself, has already been handed over for construction.
Mitra said the railways should revisit the plans for the modernization of the New Delhi railway station.
“We have suggested that the Railway minister look at the optimal size world-class station rather than a maximal size station, which the local area can absorb,” he said.
Plans for the station had been stalled by disagreements with several local agencies including the Delhi Police and the Delhi Development Authority.
The committee has also suggested setting up of greenfield stations—in Anand Vihar and Bijwasan in Delhi, Bhopal and Abidganj in Madhya Pradesh, Chandigarh, Byappanahalli in Bangalore, Chitpur and Majerhat in West Bengal.
This is apart from the 50 world-class stations Banerjee announced in her budget speech in July this year.
Mitra said strict time frames had been set for the projects, with master plans and feasibility reports for some projects to be submitted by end of October and construction to be as early as December this year.
Saying that the railways’ infrastructure projects had been divided into several phases, Banerjee said the committee would continue to provide recommendations in the future.
The railways has also sent its recommendations on the proposed dedicated freight corridor to the Union cabinet for consideration.
Banerjee, leader of the Trinamool Congress, a crucial ally of the ruling Congress in the United Progressive Alliance, had been criticized in the media for missing seven of 12 cabinet meetings including one in which a major railway project was expected to be taken up.
“This is not fair,” Banerjee said referring to the criticism. “I am not a Delhi-based politician and I have other commitments too. I need not be present in all the cabinet meetings,” the minister said.