Union minister of West Bengal Railways!

Did the good PM try even once to tell Mamata that she is the railway minister for the rest of the country, too?

bvrao

BV Rao | February 25, 2010


Mamata Banerjee at the Parliament House before presenting her West Bengal-centric budget
Mamata Banerjee at the Parliament House before presenting her West Bengal-centric budget

The practice of union railway ministers using the annual budget to please their states/constituencies is too common to merit comment. As with many other practices in the governance of our country, we have come to accept it as a given. We have also come to reason that there is nothing wrong in ministers showering goodies to specified voters if indeed the region they live in requires development.

So it needed some special performance from Mamata Banerjee for us to be galled. The bad news is, she has managed exactly that. She has showered so many projects and promises on her home state West Bengal that you wonder if the good prime minister tried even once to tell her that she is the railway minister for the rest of the country, too. The scale of her pampering is unprecedented. The total size of the budget outlay she presented yesterday is Rs 41, 426 crore. Out of that, hold your breath, Rs 39,000 crore is for projects in her state (that figure is thanks to Mail Today).

Now, we all know Ms Banerjee thinks that in 30-plus years of Left rule West Bengal has only regressed. But is it so backward or the rest of the country so advanced in railway services and infrastructure that she decides to splurge 94 percent of the ministry money on West Bengal alone?

There are many many problems with her vision (which obviously extends only so far as the Writer's Building in 2012) such as her silly decision to expand the railways' interest into businesses that are not its bunisess, such as water bottling plants, schools, museums, etc. As the Indian Express has said in its editorial today, the only thing left for the railways to do is to acquire an IPL league team!

But the biggest problem with Mamata's budget is one of governance, actually, its absence. How can the job and commitment of the largest ministry of the country (in terms of the number of people it employs and the number of people it transports) be subservient to just one woman's ambitions? Where are the checks and balances of governance? How could the cabinet of Manmohan Singh, who everybody says is such a great administrator (we differ clearly, please see the Day's Debate), allow one politically possessed minister to hijack the railways?

Who will tell Ms Banerjee she is the Union minister of railways, not the Union minister of West Bengal railways?

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