In a break from tradition, Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday took over as railway minister in Kolkata instead of in Delhi and announced special monthly passes at Rs 20 for those with monthly income below Rs 500, besides a new train for West Bengal.
"For the poor, we are announcing special monthly railway passes. The Railways wants to give them the economic freedom to travel by rail, especially those in the unorganised sector who have to come every day from their villages to the city," Banerjee said at the Eastern Railway headquarters in Kolkata.
The passes, costing Rs 20 and for a distance of 100 km, will be provided to those with monthly income less than Rs 500 and a special identity card will be issued to them, she said.
The technicalities of issuing the passes will be worked out by the Railways, Banerjee said.
Banerjee also announced introduction of the Howrah-Digha Kandari Express on the occasion of the birth anniversary of rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. The express will run seven days a week.
"My taking charge from Bengal does not mean that my work will be limited to Bengal only. There is a natural disaster here and I can't leave the people," she said referring to cyclone Aila which hit West Bengal on Monday.
Mamata, who was slated to assume office in Delhi on Tuesday, decided to stay back saying she had to help people affected by the cyclone.
"We will work for the entire country," Banerjee said in the presence of Railway Board chairman S S Khurana and senior railway officials.
"Under my supervision, the Railways will take special care for passenger amenities, cleanliness, safety and security of the passengers as also freight and business from commercial angle and human angle," Banerjee said.
Referring to the Ludhiana-Howrah freight corridor of the Eastern Railway, Banerjee said that it will be completed in record time. "It will be completed in record time. We announce today that it should be completed as early as possible.
"When completed it will be helpful for traditional industries like steel, heavy engineering industries and what not? It will create infrastructure both for railways and the industries. We will make other announcements later on because we have plans, but we have to wait for the budget," she said.
The railway minister said that the modernisation and introduction of new technology in major stations and yards will also be taken up.
Besides this, the Railways will take up the upgradation of employees. The Railways will also take measures to improve tourism and other sectors, she said.
Stating that the Railway budget was 'knocking at the door', Banerjee said: "Let us start our process from today. We cannot say about the Budget now. It is totally the prerogative of Parliament. But we have to do it within July 31."
Banerjee said all pending railway projects in Jammu and Kashmir will be given special care and attention. "We want to develop all parts of India," she said.