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Free local train travel for school, college girls

Last updated on: March 9, 2011 12:55 IST

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In a Women's Day gift, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday announced free monthly seasonal tickets -- for local travel -- to girls till their college level education.

"All girls up to college level will get free monthly seasonal tickets," she said in the Rajya Sabha, winding up a discussion on the Rail Budget 2011-12.

Besides, the minister announced setting up vocational training centres for girls.

With the Upper House returning it, the Rail Budget received Parliament's nod. The Lok Sabha has already passed the budget which did not impose any hike in fare or freight charges.

Banerjee's announcement regarding free monthly seasonal tickets to girls followed a suggestion from Narendra Budania (Cong).

The railway minister said the Railways' earnings from freight rose despite losses due to non-loading of minerals in Orissa and Karnataka because of local problems.

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Photographs: Reuters
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She said her department was able to save about Rs 4,000 crore (Rs 40 billion) from austerity measures. "This is a good lesson...we want to continue it," she said.

Referring to a comparison on China's development of railways with India, she said, in democracy the railway has social responsibilities.

About the Public Private Partnership in Railways, she said a committee was working on it. She also mentioned that anti-collision devices would soon be introduced in more railway zones to prevent mishaps.

The Rail Budget, which proposed the highest-ever plan outlay of Rs 57,630 crore (Rs 576.30 billion) for 2011-12, spared passengers of any increase in fares and introduced 56 new trains, including nine non-stop Duronto trains and three Shatabdis.

The Budget also announced a slew of concessions including reducing the eligibility age of senior women citizens from 60 to 58 years and the fare concession for men above 60 from 30 to 40 per cent.

Earlier in the day, Banerjee came under attack in the House from CPI-M for raising freight before presentation of the Rail Budget.

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Image: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Photographs: Reuters
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Participating in the debate on the Rail Budget, Shayamal Chakraborty (CPI-M) said contrary to the announcement of no rise in rates, "freight of essential items like sugar and salt were raised just before the Budget."

Another member Ganga Charan (BSP) said the interests of the common masses were put on the backburner. "Railways should pay attention to cleanliness as its stations and toilets were littered with filth and garbage," he said.

Baisnab Parida (BJD), A Elavarasan (AIADMK) and Gundu Sudha Rani (TDP) said Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been given step-motherly treatment in the Rail Budget.

Seeking improvement in catering services, Mohammed Ali Khan (Cong) said, "According to reliable sources, contract of catering is given to one single company."

Bimla Kashyap Sood (BJP), Khekiho Zhimomi (Nagaland's People Front), Mahendra Mohan (SP), Avinash Rai Khanna (BJP), Sabir Ali (LJP) and Maya Singh (BJP) were among others who participated in the debate.

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Photographs: Reuters
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