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Bansal's budget baffles state

Even Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan must have felt let down by the words of party colleague and union railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in Parliament yesterday.

Women commuters ready themselves to board a local at Bandra
Women commuters ready themselves to board a local at Bandra

Except a few projects, Railway Budget 2013-14 has little to offer to Maharashtra. The ministry has overlooked key demands of state leaders, including Chavan. The CM had in recent months asked for eight corridors in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), terming them as crucial for the social and economic growth of the area. He had also demanded modernisation of the railway station at Karad, which is his native place.

School kids endanger their lives crossing tracks
School kids endanger their lives crossing tracks to go to the other side

Furthermore, Chavan had also sought a new suburban corridor between Virar, Vasai and Panvel, doubling of the Panvel-Karjat network, and linking of Panvel with Khopoli and Karjat. All Bansal had to offer was 72 additional services, an elevated rail corridor, and introduction of the first AC coach on suburban network -all for Mumbai - apart from doubling of Apta-Jite and Jite-Pen corridors, and a new survey for Vasai Road bypass line between Naigaon and Diva.

An employee of Sony Mony in Andheri watches the rail budget telecast
An employee of Sony Mony in Andheri watches the rail budget telecast yesterday. Pics/Bipin Kokate and Nimesh Dave

Despite the hard facts, Chavan was left with no choice but to outwardly appreciate the railway budget. He said that the budget offers relief to Mumbaikars, and also welcomed the third line between Kalyan and Karjat. As per the state’s wish list, local MPs were asked to pursue certain railway projects for the benefit of people travelling from Mumbai to the interiors, such as Kalyan-Malshej-Ahmednagar and Nashik-Dahanu. But the railway ministry has ignored these suggestions along with a host of other projects for improvement of connectivity between parts of Maharashtra.

Despite the state government’s willingness to share the cost of the new ventures, the budget is silent on such matters, barring the 106-km gauge conversion project between Nagpur and Nagbhir in Vidarbha region.¬†While the CM’s reaction was understandably muted, members of his coalition partner NCP were more vocal. Deputy CM Ajit Pawar was particularly scathing, saying that a pressure group of MPs was needed to be set up to pursue the state’s demands.

He maintained that the budget had failed to offer any justice to Maharashtra and also does not fulfill expectations of the citizens. Pawar’s party colleague Nashik MP Sameer Bhujbal too has articulated his strong displeasure. “Despite making valid demands for Nashik city and surrounding areas, the budget has failed to fulfill the aspirations of the people,” he said. ¬†

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