Jharkhand is happy, almost relieved, that railway minister Mamata Banerjee hasn't disappointed the state this time, having announced three new trains, new tracks and station upgrades, much more than her predecessor Lalu Prasad ever did.
Although some specific regions of the state, Dhanbad-Bokaro zone of Adra division and the Chakradharpur division, were a tad unhappy that no new trains came their way, the new UPA government's first railway budget managed to create a positive vibe here.
Mamata announced three new trains namely, Ranchi-Howrah Intercity Express, Ranchi-Patna Jan Shatabdi Express and Ranchi-Chindwara Express, thereby fulfilling a long-standing demand of the capital's residents who wanted a day connection to Calcutta.
This apart, she has extended the Ranchi-Alipurduar Express to Guwahati, thereby ensuring direct connectivity with the Northeast. She also promised three new railway lines — Rajkharswan-Ranchi, Madhuban-Giridih and Ghoramara-Dumka on the Deoghar-Dumka stretch. The Madhuban-Giridih line would be completed by 2009-10, she said.
"We are happy with the budget. Unlike her predecessor, she has not neglected our state," said Ashok Nagpal, the secretary of the Chhotanagpur Passenger Association.
He was echoing the initial reaction of people of Ranchi and its adjacent areas, especially the business community, who would no longer have to depend on Hatia-Howrah Express, a night train, to travel to Calcutta.
The new train would now allow them to go to Calcutta and return the same day. Till now, businessmen needing to visit Calcutta for trade frequently, would have to keep aside two days for such trips.
Similarly, a new train for Patna was also in demand, and Mamata — not Lalu Prasad — would be remembered for having done that for Jharkhand.
Mamata's plan of upgrading 150 stations — namely industry destinations and tourist and pilgrimage centres — across the country includes five stations of Jharkhand.
Ranchi, Ghatshila and Jasidih would be developed into "multi-functional" complexes to include shopping facilities, restaurants, bookstalls, PCOs, medicine kiosks, variety stores, budget hotels and underground parking.
While Ranchi and Ghatshila are important from industry and tourism point of view, Jasidih serves a spiritual tourism destination because of its proximity to Baidyanath Dham, Deoghar.
Likewise, Jamshedpur and Gomoh stations were among 309 that would be converted to "ideal stations" to be equipped with better passenger facilities, including drinking water, toilets and dormitories for women.
Also, those travelling on Ranchi-Rajdhani Express and Ranchi-Calcutta Shatabdi Express would be pleasantly surprised as Mamata has promised infotainment on board that would include Internet facilities.
The new railway tracks promised have also been welcomed. "Constructing new railway lines on the Madhuban-Giridih stretch would be a boon for state tourism," said R.K. Verma, the under secretary of the state tourism department.
Parasnath, near Madhuban, was the most sacred pilgrimage centre for Jains, he explained, adding that the faithful from across the country would now have better access.
On the other hand, elevation of Jasidih into a multi-functional complex would facilitate religious tourism to Baidyanath Dham in Deoghar where over 10 lakh pilgrims congregate very year during the month of Shravan.
Telegraph / 3 July 2009