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Govt Slashing Rail Funds, Resorting To Marketing Gimmicks: Congress

Reduction in funds for Indian Railways has affected operations and safety, alleges Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge

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The Opposition has slammed the government over the functioning of Indian Railways, saying it is indulging more in marketing gimmick while the funds under various heads have been cut down, impacting rail operations and safety.

Initiating a discussion in the Lok Sabha on Demands for Grants (Railways) for 2016-17, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said 64 people died in railway accidents in 2015-16, higher than 54 in 2013-14.

"You (Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu) had in December 2015 announced setting up of 'Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshan Kosh' (National Rail Security Fund) of Rs 1 lakh crore. I want to know how much fund has come and how much has been spent towards passenger safety," Kharge said.

He said at a time when rail revenues are decreasing, allocation towards Depreciation Reserve Fund, Development Fund, Capital Fund, Debt Service Fund have all been cut down in 2016-17 Railway Budget.

"They (government) are misleading people. They are saying we are doing so much, when actually they are not... They are diverting attention of people... You people indulge more in marketing than actual work," Kharge said.

He also raised the issue of soiled linen being used by the railways despite the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by the government.

Quoting a study, Kharge said the ruling government wants to construct a track for bullet train spending Rs 200 crore per km, whereas a track for normal speed train can be built for Rs 20 crore per km.

"The government should first do whatever is priority. All the big, catchy ideas are good for misleading people," he said.

Kharge alleged that the Centre has not released funds for a metro project in Bangaluru, which was countered by Union Minister and BJP MP from Bangaluru Ananth Kumar who said Rs 3,500 crore have already been released to the state government.

Participating in the discussion, Yogi Adityanath (BJP) said the Railway budget is a proof of the Centre rising above party politics.

"Whatever challenges are there in the railways, we have inherited as part of legacy. During UPA's rule we saw corruption, incomplete projects and even scams involving rail minister. This year's budget has given a roadmap of taking the railways forward," Adityanath added.