Railway Budget 2009-2010: Speech by Mamata Banerjee

1. Madam Speaker, I rise to present the Budget Estimates for the year 2009- 10 for the Indian Railways. I am extremely honoured presenting the first railway budget in the august House presided by the first lady Lok Sabha Speaker of the country.

2. This is the first Railway budget that I will be presenting as a Minister in the UPA government. I thank our respected Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh Ji for his valued guidance and support and I am also thankful to our honourable Finance Minister for his kind support. I have presented two Railway Budgets earlier and this will be my third Railway Budget.

3. Madam, I know how our Hon'ble Members of Parliament representing people from all parts of the country have high expectations from Indian Railways. They want new projects in their states and constituencies. They also want more new lines, more budget provisions and existing projects to be expedited. They want more trains and better services.

4. Railway is the visible face of the government and we are proud of it. Madam, therefore standing before the august House, please permit me to raise a question as to whether railway projects are to be measured only on the scale of ''economic viability'' or do we also need to look at the ''social viability'' of these projects ? Are the fruits of development to be restricted only to a privileged few and not to the teeming populations in remote and backward areas of our country? These projects may be economically unviable but are an economic necessity for the people of those regions who have remained victims of backwardness and poverty. They need these projects even more. I do believe

and I am firmly committed to the visible upliftment of the downtrodden and under privileged which is imperative for holistic socio economic development of the country. These projects that are instrumental in upgradation of the deprived and under privileged, may not meet the so called economic viability criterion but create real economic assets which will be far more beneficial for future development.

5. Several years have passed since we got independence. Just as everybody has a right to vote in democracy, in the same manner, every ordinary person should have the right to development. Several lakhs of people are awaiting development. The time has now come for them to receive their share in fruits of development. I think the time has come when our economists and social philosophers will have to consider, that the upliftment of the poor and down trodden, is the primary task of any welfare government and society and the old mindset of economic viability should be substituted by social viability. As the former Prime Minister Indiraji once stated that ''elimination of poverty demands frontal attack on vested interests and causes of poverty''.