TMC slams BJP over issue of allocation of funds for rail projects in West Bengal

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(Eds: Adding West Bengal minister's quotes) Kolkata/New Delhi, Feb 7 (PTI) The TMC on Sunday accused the BJP government at the Centre of depriving West Bengal of rail projects over the last few years, and said allocations have been made only for some projects in Union budget 2021-22 with an eye on assembly elections in the state.

Senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and West Bengal minister Shashi Panja told reporters here that nominal financial allocations have been made for the state's railway projects, which were announced earlier, while BJP-ruled states are getting the lion's share of funds for railway works.

'While presenting the Budget, the BJP government makes allocations based on the fact whether a state is going for elections or not. Eastern states, including West Bengal, have been deprived since 2016-17, and some projects have been announced in the 2021-22 budget with the assembly polls in mind,' Panja said at a press conference at the TMC headquarters.

She claimed that the BJP government has announced some new railway line projects for Kolkata-headquartered South Eastern Railway for 2021-22 in the election season, after having ignored it since 2016-17.

The minister also claimed that the Metro Railway projects in and around Kolkata are facing inordinate delay in completion, and have been granted a total of Rs 1,330 crore for 2021-22 since the elections are round the corner in West Bengal.

Assembly polls are due in the state in April-May this year.

The allocation of Rs 6,636 crore to West Bengal is the highest-ever funds earmarked for the state in the history of Indian Railways, minister Piyush Goyal had said soon after the Union budget was announced, blaming successive state governments for the delay in rail projects in the state.

Accusing the Centre of 'doublespeak', Panja said that the BJP government 'does not believe in cooperative federalism'.

'While the projects in BJP-ruled states are getting sustained allocation, those in other states are facing natural death owing to lack of funds,' she said.

The minister alleged that the East West Metro corridor connecting Sector V in Salt Lake with Howrah Maidan, which was announced by Mamata Banerjee during her stint as the Rail Minister in 2009, has missed five deadlines for completion of the project, leading to around 100 per cent cost escalation.

Taking to Twitter, TMC MP and national spokesperson Derek O'Brien said, 'In election season, BJP's tourist gang are touting 'record Railway allocation' for Bengal. The truth is, multiple rail projects have been shelved in Bengal and funding choked all these years.' Posting two documents, O'Brien has highlighted 'How Bengal has been deprived of Railways funds for years.' In the document, the Rajya Sabha MP has highlighted how over one dozen rail factories across Bengal, initiated by Mamata Banerjee when she was the Minister of Railways, have received only a token financial allocation this year.

'The new rail coach manufacturing unit at Kanchrapara had been allocated Rs 74 lakh in the last budget. This year the allocation is just Rs 1,000. (One thousand rupees, not a typo!),' he said.

He further said in budget 2020 the Centre shelved 20 new connectivity ventures and 10 upgradation projects launched by Banerjee as Minister of Railways, especially in rural Bengal.

'In Budget 2019 the Sealdah Coach Repair Factory - One thousand rupees Rail Museum in Bolpur - One thousand rupees! Coach Washing Workshop in Howrah - One thousand rupees!The list goes on,' he said.

Accusing the BJP of only focussing on states in election year, he said that from 2016-17 to 2020-21, no new lines in Railways were announced in South-Eastern Railways, let alone Bengal.

In 2020-21, four new projects were announced for SER but all of them went to Odisha and not Bengal. .

'The BJP government has allocated funds very slowly for it since 2014. Kolkata Metro received an outlay of Rs 850 crore for 2019-20 which came down to Rs 750 crore in 2020-21.

Come election year and this outlay is Rs 1330 crore,' he said.

O'Brien also alleged that BJP states benefitted at the expense of the rest of India, citing two examples of the bullet train project and the broad gauge like in Surendranagar in Rajkot.

He also highlighted how in budget 2020-21, Rs 980 crore was sanctioned for the National Railway University in Gujarat.

The Railway minister has said that there is no shortage of funds for the state and blamed the political dispensations for the delay in execution of works.

West Bengal has 53 ongoing projects including new lines, gauge conversion, doubling projects costing Rs 48,275 crore for 4,463 km.

'The allocation for West Bengal is the highest-ever in the history of Indian Railways. It is 2.5 times the average amount allocated between budget 2009-2014 and 26 per cent more than last year,' he had said while addressing a press briefing recently.

'Projects there remain incomplete or are delayed because the state governments - first it was the Left Front government and now the TMC-- have been unable to provide land to us. Projects which are 45 year old are pending in the state. I appeal to Mamata didi to expedite the process and give us land,' he had said.

Goyal said that due to non-availability of land, as many as 34 projects in the state have received only token allotment in the budget 2021-22. PTI AMR ASG IJT DV MM MM