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Lalu steers Railways from Patna

July 02, 2004 08:53 IST

Railway Minister Lalu Prasad will be setting up a camp office at 1, Anne Marg, Patna, which happens to be the official residence of his wife, Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi. 
Yadav has also informed ministry officials that he would be spending no less than 15 days in a month in Patna. 
The matter has not come as a surprise to railway officials, who have got used to an absentee minister. Yadav took over the ministry on May 24 and left for Patna on his "rail yatra" soon after. 
He has barely made it to his office since. The only regular office appearances that he made was during the Parliament session, after which he has been busy tying up matters in Bihar. 
Many officials managed to meet him only while he was on his way to Mumbai after the Matsyanadhi Express derailment. The number of days he has attended office since the end of the Parliamentary session is just six. 
Senior railway officials say the impending Assembly polls in Bihar is the reason why Yadav is absent from Delhi before the presentation of the Railway Budget. 
"In any case, ministers only give direction, the actual drafting is done by bureaucrats,"

said a senior official. 
So what directions has Yadav given apart from changing the face of railway crockery by imposing the use of kulhars? 
Within three days of taking charge as minister, Yadav has directed the railways to set up a wheel and axle plant in the state, to upgrade the Sonepur and Jamalpur Railway institutes, to set up an EMU shed at Jhanjhan, and post Railway Police Force personnel at Mokamo, Barh and Bariah. 
Yadav has been a busy letter writer as well, writing to all members of Parliament on their wish list for the budget. 
Another more welcome direction given by Yadav has been a letter he wrote to all railway officials nearly a fortnight ago. The minister has made it clear that no official is to entertain any requests made in the minister's name by persons claiming to be his relatives. 
"In case such requests are made, the matter is to be verified by my office immediately," says the letter. 
In any case, many railway officials have been calling up their counterparts posted in the state to brush up Yadav's family tree. With an absentee minister, you can never be too sure of the ground rules.

Nistula Hebbar in New Delhi