New Delhi: Suresh Prabhu's maiden Railway Budget presentation, peppered with personal references and quotes, turned out to be a smooth affair even as possibly for the first time, no new trains were announced today.
In a reflection of the challenging tasks before him, the Minister remarked, “Hey Prabhu, ye kaise hoga? (Oh God, how can this be done?),” while spelling out his long term vision for transforming the railways.
Without leaving any room for doubt, the Minister was quick to complete his remarks saying that large resources and strong political will ensure “re-birth of the railways”, evoking peals of laughter across the House.
In yet another achievement of sorts, Prabhu did not encounter any major disruption from opposition during his speech.
Only when he urged Members of Parliament to contribute from their MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme) funds to improve passenger amenities at railway stations, was there some dissent with some Opposition members saying “no,no...”.
Towards the end of his speech, Opposition members seemed to be a disappointed lot as the Minister did not announce any new trains.
Looking to make his speech more lively, 61-year old Prabhu, also referred to himself as a “senior citizen” while mentioning about a proposal to give preference to senior citizens for middle berths in trains.
Besides, he used quotes such as “Kuch naya jodna hoga, kuch purana todna hoga (some new things need to be added, some old things need to be broken)”.
In a lighter moment, looking towards his ministerial colleague Nitin Gadkari, Prabhu said the railways are more energy efficient and emit less carbon dioxide compared to road transport. Gadkari, who is the Transport Minister, was seen nodding at the reference. He was seated next to the Railway Minister.
Members on the Treasury benches were seen thumping their desks intermittently during the little over an hour-long speech of the Railway Minister.
The speech also saw the mention of a Marathi novel ‘Khandalyachya Ghatasaathi', penned by Shubhada Gogate, which which is a fictionalised account of the construction of India's first railway line across the Sahyadri range.
Besides, Prabhu referred to Mahatma Gandhi conducting his Bharat Darshan by travelling in ‘Third Class' of trains, which does not exist today. The Minister concluded his speech by quoting Swami Vivekananda on making ideas work.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, among others, were present in the House while the visitors' gallery was almost.