Keeping his eye firmly on the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal is expected to keep the aam aadmi in focus in his budget speech on Tuesday.
It will not just come as sops in terms of concessional travel for vulnerable groups, but is likely to translate into new trains to poll-bound states.
However, unlike previous rail ministers, who primarily catered to their own states, these will be evenly distributed. Also expected are more double-decker coaches, high-speed trains and faster accident relief/rescue trains.
Bansal’s stint as a former parliamentary affairs minister would come handy in balancing the needs of all political constituencies. However, Bansal, a three time MP, is likely to gift his home state Punjab and constituency Chandigarh not only more trains but also a new projects aimed at generating employment.
Given that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and deputy chairman of the planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia would have guided the rail minister, announcements on new rail lines, links and projects for North East India and Himalayan region could be made for strategic reasons.
Bansal may have got less than four months to understand the new ministry, but the script has already been written for him. A stampede ahead of his budget, massive outrage over women’s safety and accidents at unmanned crossings could see Bansal devoting a significant part of his speech to addressing safety needs.
As energy continues to be of critical importance, Bansal could announce more projects likes solar panels at major stations and provision of roof top solar panels on passenger coaches running in close circuits.
One of the worrying features in the railways’ health has been pending projects.