If the Rail Budget has become a privy purse for the ruling dispensation to dole out political sops for consolidating its vote bank, there should be deliberation over merging it with the General Budget. It was crystal clear that Mamata Banerjee, keeping her eyes on Writers' Building in Kolkata, would run her ‘express’ on populist track, giving a cozy ride to West Bengal. A speculation was rife that the Minister would upgrade the structure of railways, but she fell short on this expectation. It is surprising that the Central government has endorsed Mamata’s bid to bring in social reform as she loosened the string of the rail kitty for the poor. She showered largesse on the economically downtrodden people, by promising to build houses for them as well as setting up hotels and hospitals. It is fair that the railways is a big organization and it has to cater to social responsibilities but it does not mean that the Rail Ministry should become a social welfare entities. If the Rail Ministry is engrossed in bringing social reforms, who will be responsible for the smooth conduct of rail operation and safety of the passengers?

The Budget presented by Mamata did not touch upon the promise made by her to give international dimension to the Indian Railways. The Minister must learn it would not suffice to introduce new trains, give assurances for improving passengers’ amenities and make tall promises. Now it seems that the Rail Minister has got the right to consolidate vote banks and take special care of her home state. If the message is driven home that the government has obliged people by not increasing fares and freight rates, it is not in their welfare. It is an irony that the government does not seem to be keen on modernizing the structure of railways, which is urgently required. Even though, Mamata announced to improve infrastructure and upgrade railways, but it lies in future whether these big promises would be kept. It cannot be overlooked that as many as 250 projects, announced in the previous rail budget, are still hanging fire. It is assumed that if the work on the projects goes on with this snail’s pace, it will take decades to finish them. It is the need of hour to think deeply that railways should not be run on a political track to dole out goodies for settling personal scores.