Lalu targets nationwide voter base

With an eye to general elections a little over 400 days away, Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today (February 26) presented a ‘please-all’ budget that focusses on providing new services to the Aam Aadmi and boosting profits.

Announcing a surplus balance sheet for the bygone year, Lalu said Railways has a cash surplus of Rs 25,000 crore. The minister also emphasised an additional Rs 2,000 crore earnings on freight services.

Even as Lalu Prasad highlighted the achievements of the Railways in the past fiscal, he said issuance of tickets through mobile phones was on the anvil in the coming year. By 2009, the minister said, call centre based inquiry services would also be unveiled.

Also, Lalu said the people could expect 15,000 more railway ticketing counters over the next 2 years.

Showing concern on improving hygiene, Lalu Prasad said railways would invest Rs 4,000 cr to add discharge-free green toilets in 36,000 coaches.

Also, in an attempt to appease senior citizens, the minister has increased the concession on the railway tickets from the existing 30% to 50 % for women senior citizens.

“We have ended the 2007-08 fiscal with a surplus balance of 25,000 crore. Our operating ratio has improved to 76%. We have taken Indian Railways to new highs…We are scoring goal after goal in the match. Every child is saying, ‘Chak De Railways’,” said Lalu in his inimitable style drawing laughs from both the houses.

And the Railways Minister also rolled out some sops for Mumbai where trains are the lifeline for locals. Lalu announced the availability of a rail ticket, monthly season ticket and platform ticket on a smart card in the Mumbai Suburban Service. This card, titled ‘Go Mumbai Card’, would be launched by the end of next month. The Central Railways has already started trial runs for this purpose through a public-private partnership. The Railway Minister informed that the multi purpose card has been named ‘Go Mumbai Card’ and sale of bus tickets of BEST on this card has already started. These cards will be available at stations, bus depots of BEST and various other locations in the city. He clarified that there would be no extra burden on passenger for buying tickets through the smart card. However, only a marginal fee would be payable on buying and recharging of the card.

Lalu Prasad expressed the hope that the initiative would end long queues at ticket counters for daily train passengers in Mumbai suburban.

And besides rolling out the statistics Lalu Prasad was also in an entertaining mood even while unashamedly beating his own trumpet.

“Everybody is appreciating that I have done a tremendous work. Each and every year I have earned crores and crores…every day..and they are saying…Lalu Yadav has planted a fruit tree…and every year it is my duty to uproot the tree,” said Lalu.

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