With Bansal at helm, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh bask in railway budget
By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, Feb 27 : For nearly three decades, Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh used to get raw deals in successive railway budgets. This time though, things changed with with Chandigarh MP Pawan Kumar Bansal being the railway minister.
With Bansal being a regular traveller on the Chandigarh-New Delhi Shatabdi Express, the city and adjoining Punjab and Haryana have got a handful in the railway budget presented by him Tuesday. In previous years, which railways ministers being mostly from Bihar and West Bengal, the region seemed to be last on their priority list.
Last year too, the railway budget had nothing for Chandigarh or the region.
Haryana, which has a Congress government, seems to have benefitted the most with a rail coach factory being announced at Sonipat. The new rail lines announced for the state include the Hisar-Sirsa and Yamunanagar-Chandigarh sections. The state will also benefit from better connectivity and frequency of trains running within Haryana.
Bansal, who became the first Congress minister to head the railways ministry after 17 years last October, originally belongs to Punjab and has earlier been a Rajya Sabha MP from the state.
While the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal criticized Bansal for not doing enough for Punjab, the railway budget had a lot for the state.
The new trains announced for Punjab and nearby areas include the Amritsar-Lalkuan Express (via Chandigarh), the Chandigarh-Amritsar Inter-city Express, the Indore-Chandigarh Express, the Una/Nangal Dam-Nanded Express, the Katra-Kalka Express and the Kalka-Sai Nagar (Shirdi) Express.
Bansal's new proposals include trains linking the region to religious places in other states. These include Sikh shrine Hazoor Sahib (Nanded-Maharashtra), famous Hindu shrine Vaishno Devi (Katra-Jammu and Kashmir) and Shirdi (Sai Nagar-Maharashtra). Sikh holy places Amritsar, Talwandi Sabo and Anandpur Sahib also figure prominently in Bansal's new linkages.
Bansal's wife, Madhu Bansal, had told the media Tuesday that she had got representations from various sections seeking rail linkages to religious places across India.
Even before the budget, Bansal got a new Shatabdi Express - the third - started between Chandigarh and New Delhi. He also initiated a project to give a complete facelift to the Chandigarh railway station. In the budget, Bansal announced a few more initiatives for Chandigarh.
The soft-spoken but articulate Bansal, who is a lawyer by training, also announced a new factory for repair and rehabilitation of motorised bogies in Vidisha constituency in Madhya Pradesh. The constituency is represented in Lok Sabha by Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in the lower house.
Bansal and Sushma Swaraj had studied law together in Panjab University's Department of Law in Chandigarh nearly four decades ago.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)