VISAKHAPATNAM: The Port City denizens expressed their dissatisfaction and anger over the Railway Budget. The youngsters, women and senior citizens expected much more from the Budget post-bifurcation. But Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu disappointed the people.
“They designated us ‘Sahayaks’ which is good to hear, but we were upset as there are not many benefits to us in terms of increasing our daily wages. It’s just the passengers who get benefit from us as we serve them,”
— PA Naidu, Porter
“There is good development on the technology front which will help in checking robberies and women are given good security while travelling, we just wish that the authorities would fulfil the promises given,”
— M Vineesha, Student.
“It is always good that Railways provides good amenities for women and I feel it’s sufficient for us but it will be better if they increase the number of general bogies to avoid heavy rush,”
— Preethi Kulsar, Housewife.
The much anticipated new railway zone with Visakhapatnam as headquarters, remains a distant dream. Though the new zone appeared almost certain, the Railway Budget 2016-17 announced on Thursday does not even mention it, shattering the hopes of people who were eagerly waiting for the announcement. Enraged over this, various organisations including, political parties, are gearing up to resume agitations demanding the separate railway zone.
The Waltair division of East Coast Railway (ECoR) is among the top five divisions in the country, in terms of revenue generation for the Railways and a separate railway zone has been a long-pending demand. Both political parties and the civil society organisations have been pitching in for the railway zone by staging agitations as well as lobbying with the authorities concerned. Step-motherly attitude in allocation of trains to Waltair division and job appointments to people of north Coastal Andhra, have been major complaints against the Railways which in turn triggered the demand for a railway zone.
The mention of separate railway zone in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, had rekindled the hopes of people in Andhra Pradesh particularly Visakhapatnam. But the assurances in the Act and the repeated pleas from the state government as well as the people’s representatives from the region, fell on deaf ears when it came to realising the proposal.
Though a preliminary study is learnt to have been taken up to evaluate administrative costs, staff division, zonal jurisdiction and also the assets, there has been neither a formal announcement by the Railway minister during the budget speech nor a confirmation from the Railway authorities. “Any such decision or announcement will be made at the level of the Railway ministry or the Railway Board,” asserted Waltair divisional railway manager Chandralekha Mukherjee.
Hours after the Railway Budget 2016 was tabled in Parliament, there was uproar from various political parties and civil organisations over the new railway zone. HRD minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao, Parliament members T Subbarami Reddy and M Srinivasa Rao were among the politicians who expressed dissatisfaction over the budget. “People were eagerly expecting the announcement of railway zone with some new trains. But the budget did not render any good news for the AP,” the HRD minister said.
Visakha Railway Zone Sadhana Samithi convener JV Satyanarayana Murthy blamed the ruling party for its failure in ensuring the new railway zone for the state. The elected representatives from both Telugu Desam Party and Bharatiya Janata Party made promises but have failed in getting any railway provisions despite having absolute majority in Parliament, he said.
The Left parties have accused the BJP and the TDP of cheating people of Andhra Pradesh, particularly of Visakhapatnam, by giving false promises. They said that an action plan would be chalked out in consultation with various civil organisation to step up the fight for a new railway zone.