Laloo Prasad Yadav the irrepressible Railway Minister had the crowd in splits in spite of the language barrier. The Railway Minister had come to Thiruchendur in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin district to flag off a new express train to the state capital Chennai.
Thiruchendur is a famous pilgrimage town of pilgrimage housing the Subramaniam Swamy temple.
The train which was scheduled to leave at 1300 hrs finally left at 1645 hrs on Sunday 8th Febraury, 2009 to a rousing reception from the assembled crowd. The train was filled to the brim, which prompted the minister to immediately change it form a weekly fixture to five times a week.
The crowd cheered lustily as Laloo started his speech in Tamil with one word, Vanakkam which he chanted thrice to good effect.
"En Iniya Makale" (My dear people) brought the crowd on its feet. Laloo then switched to Hindi with a translator, midway through his speech decided that the crowd would understand English and finished the speech in English.
"Today is a festive day in Tamil Nadu. You are all celebrating Thaipoosam. I wish you a happy Thaipoosam. I have come to Thiruchendur to give you a gift. A gift for you and your local MP, Minister of home V Radhika Selvi. In September, 2008 the gauge conversion from meter to broad between Thiruchendur to Tirunelveli was completed. Till today only local trains ran on this track. From today an express train will also run on this sector. On Selvi's request I now name the train, 'Sendur' express," Laloo said.
The train was supposed to stop at only four stations enroute to Chennai, but Laloo said it would now stop at all stations for the benefit of the commuters.
"Our railways reach the remotest areas of the country. Bus fares are expensive and how far can you travel in a bus. No body can compete with Indian railways. Every budget I reduce rail fares. My officials used wonder how the railways would survive run if I kept reducing fares, but today it made a profit of one lakh crores. During the National Democratic Alliance rule headed by Atalji they were spreading rumours that India was shining, while Indian railway was in bad shape. They couldn't even pay dividend to the central government. Then I became railway minister. What is the condition of the railways now?In passenger amenities we are the best. I provide a fully air conditioned Garib Rath at a price which all can afford. Where there are Rajdhanis running I run a Garib rath as well, " Laloo said.
"I have given more bonus to our employees because we are earning now. They came to learn from me from Harvard University. I have gone to Singapore, France, Japan and everyone asks me how I turned the Railways around. They ask me if I had a magic wand," the railway minister said.
He thanked the people for the lovely reception and Selvi for inviting him. I want to learn Tamil but have managed to learn only three words. Vanakkam,(welcome) Vange (come) and Ponge (go). He kept chanting ponge, ponge while finishing his speech, after which he flagged off the train.