Minister of State for Railways Suresh Angadi on Thursday alleged that the UPA government did not show political will or leadership to develop the Railways, and its capital expenditure doubled under the Narendra Modi government.
Intervening in the marathon debate on the demands for grants of railways in the Lok Sabha, Angadi said the government was laying thrust on safety, punctuality, cleanliness and improving passenger amenities in trains.
Over 50 members have already taken part in the debate which continued till late night. Most members made specific demands related to their constituencies and states.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is expected to reply to the debate on Friday.
Targeting Congress, Angadi said that Railways had been made a "political issue" for the past 60 years and the budgets were "political budgets".
He said the Modi government had provided good administration and doubled the capital expenditure on railways from 2.30 lakh crore in 2009-14 to Rs 4.97 lakh crore in 2014-19.
Angadi said he had inspected a general coach and found it to be in very bad shape and requested his officers to improve conditions. Speaker Om Birla was quick to tell the minister that he should not use the word request in the context of officials, but instead, say that he directed them. "A minister will not make request (to officials)," he said.
Angadi said he was peeved that India does not have trains running at 400 km an hour while other countries have such trains. He said India could not do it due to "lack of leadership" of previous governments, adding that the Modi government will bring bullet trains.
"Today stations are neat and clean. Modi government should get credit," he said while asserting that everyone has to contribute to better functioning of railways.
He also said priority was being given to safety and completion of projects.
The minister suggested that people should work at least eight hours a day sincerely, as this, he said, will "show our power to the world".
Earlier, participating in the debate, DMK leader Kanimozhi had said the Railways still employs manual scavengers.
"We have to be ashamed of it. They might deny it. They have denied it before; they have said that the Railways do not directly employ manual scavengers but it is done through contractual labour," she said while stating that safety of passengers inside the trains is also becoming a cause of concern.
The DMK member said that last month, a 17-year old was abused, assaulted and stripped inside a passenger train in Sambhal district by some youngsters and was thrown out of the train.
She cited some other examples of violence against members of minority community in trains.
"It is important not just for the train but also for the people inside the train. I would really like to reiterate that railway safety is not the only concern, I think, everybody in this country should also feel -the disabled, the unemployed and the minority people - safe, and that they belong to this country," she said.
Kanimozhi also accused the central government of naming schemes and programmes only in Hindi.
"This government has decided that every programme will be only named in Hindi. I would like to ask you how will a villager in my district understand what it is? I have seen signboards in Thoothukudi saying PM Sadak Yojana, with no translation. I do not understand it," she said.
She also spoke against corporatisation and privatisation of the railways.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay of Trinamool Congress said there were a large number of vacancies in trains.
"There is a shortage of drivers in Indian Railways. Drivers are overburdened with work. They do get tired. You will find that most railway accidents occur in the early hours between 3 AM and 5 AM. That is because the train drivers feel sleepy at that time. They fall asleep at the wheel as a result of which the railway accidents take place. When are you going to fill the vacancies," he asked.
Bandyopadhyay said more priority should be given to complete Dedicated Freight Corridors. He also said proposal of bullet train is not possible in India and it was a "hoax".
"In Indian soil, bullet trains cannot move, cannot run. These can be called as high-speed trains only. Bullet trains have a separate structure. We are aware of bullet trains in Japan. Here, it is being told that bullet train is going to be inaugurated on Ahmedabad to Mumbai route. This is not correct. High-speed trains are possible to run in the country, but never bullet trains. It is a hoax, it is a false assurance being given to the common people," he said.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the Modi Government had not carried out electrification at the desired speed and had not achieved its targets in several other areas.
"In 2017-18, only 4,087 kilometres of railway tracks were electrified. These are the achievements of the government during the tenure that is called Modi-I and Modi-II. Now, they have forgotten to call themselves the NDA. Now everything is to be named after Modi ji, like Modi-I, Modi-II," he claimed. (ANI)