20.00 hrs.

So, I would request to upgrade the Mechada station as a model station. Last but not least, but most important point is that in my constituency, also in the constituency of hon. Member Dr. Nitish Sengupta, there are thousands and thousands of growers of betel leaves, but they are facing a problem due to non-availability of the PVs, parcel vans. Last time, at the time of Budget, the then Railway Minister announced remanufacture of the parcel vans. So, I would request for remanufacture of the parcel vans so that the growers can get parcel vans there, for transportation of betel leaves.

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Now, the hon. Minister will reply.

SHRI P.C. THOMAS (MUVATTUPUZHA): Sir, I shall be very brief.

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: You came very late. You can ask any clarification after her reply.

SHRI P.C. THOMAS : Sir, my train happened to be late.

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Your train is late. You will have to suffer now.

SHRI P.C. THOMAS : Sir, I shall raise only two or three points.

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: If you have any clarification, you can seek it after the reply, but not now. This is the punishment for your being late.

SHRI P.C. THOMAS : Sir, it so happened that my vehicle got late. I shall be very short and raise only two points.

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: No, please. By this time, she should start. This is eight o'clock. I will call you for clarification, but not now.

Now, the hon. Minister will reply.

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SHRI A.C. JOS (TRICHUR): Please speak in English.

MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Let her speak in Hindi or any language. Now, I will request the hon. Members not to interrupt her. Otherwise, we may have to sit late here.

You take your own time. If there is any clarification and if it is necessary, I will allow it.

SHRI A.C. JOS : She may speak in English.



MR. DEPUTY-SPEAKER: You leave it to her.

You can go ahead.

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We have received good suggestions and so much of constructive criticism also. I think, through this criticism, the Railways will, of course, improve.

Before I say something regarding Railways, I quote the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhiji. He said:

"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption to work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business, he is a part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him, he is doing a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so."

I would like to make this the guiding principle for each of the railway employee and each of the Railway Board member.

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I have seen their pathetic conditions. After that, this was my target and this was the target of our Department and both my Ministers of State for Railways that we have to see first the safety and security of the people. But I am sorry to say that after the Gaisal incident, even before that, the Khanna Committee, which was constituted to look into the safety aspects of the Railways, recommended that Railways, at least, need Rs. 15,000 crore for the safety purposes. In our country, after 50 years of our Independence, you cannot imagine that out of 40,517 level-crossings, 24,313 level-crossings are unmanned and only few are manned. I do not know how the train is running. If we go just like a goods train, we cannot survive.

I agree and I appreciate what the hon. Members of Parliament and the leaders of Opposition parties have said. It is a fact that several projects are pending for the last 20 or 30 or 40 years.

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All the rail tracks are old, all the coaches or the bogies are old, and we do not know how the trains are running. It is a sensitive matter and we are concerned about the safety and the security of the passengers. Out of 40,000 level-crossings, 24,000 level-crossings are unmanned. There are so many places where even the signals are not working. In this connection, the Khanna Commission made certain recommendations. I do not want to blame anybody, and I have regard for all my predecessors.

Immediately after the Gaisal train accident, there was a train accident in Britain. Though the Railways were in the private sector there, the British Government, keeping the passengers' safety in view, gave money to the Railways amounting to Rs. 21,000 crore equivalent to our Indian currency. But I am sorry to say that after the Gaisal accident, we have not received even a single paise. This type of thing is going on and I feel it is very unfortunate. The situation is very grave. That is why, we started the work on 469 level-crossings. Let us start with these small things.

In my State, people would have been very happy if I had given a new train to them. Instead of giving a new train, I said that we should spend 75 per cent of the money on safety. That is why, we kept this provision for the passenger safety. For this purpose, we have the RPF, but their number is less. Their work is very limited; they only look after the railway property; if anything happens inside a train

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It is the duty of the railways, but they are not providing any security. The RPF cannot even lodge an FIR.

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]] MɴxǨ] E {ʱɺ * +Mɮ E< Jɱɡ i i Z E< BiɮV xɽ *

It is a fact that our attitude should be modern. We have to see the interests of the passengers, and not any individual's interest. We do not want to intervene in the law and order situation in a State.

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Every year, we pay Rs. 160 crore,

which is equal to 50 per cent, to the Railway Police, though they come under the State Government. Before the next Budget, if the leaders call a meeting at their convenience, then I can explain the situation to them. Let us take some policy decisions regarding the safety and the security of the passengers.

Hon. Members of Parliament deserve such small facilities like small stations, small computer reservation centre, some new lines etc.

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Sɽ E< {֮x <x ESb < {c *

Sir, sometimes the railway lines are not in good condition and also there is no track renewal. There are only old coaches and old wagons. Indian Railways is the second largest railway network in the world. But I do not know whether any priority is attached to the Railways or not.

Sir, I would like to tell the truth here because I would like to take the hon. Members of this House into confidence so that if anything happens, then they should not blame me. I am working overtime and we are trying our best.

Sir, I feel that money is needed. But there has been a severe cut in the Railway Budget. We have a social obligation to fulfil. After the Kargil war, there were contributions from almost every institution of this country for those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of the country. Similarly, the Railways is a Department where we provide service for the social sector -- the sports persons travel from one part of the country to the other, they would have to be given concessions; the kisans go to attend some rally and the Railways would have to give concessions to them; women organise a function and they would go from one place to another, the Railways would have to give them concessions. The Railways would have to provide for concessions to so many categories of people and apart from all these, the Railways also would have to implement certain desirable projects.

Sir, the Railways need Budgetary support to fulfil its social obligations. What happens if we do not get that? The Railways is not an industry. It is an institution; it is an institution with a traditional outlook.

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Sir, safety never sleeps; the Railways also never sleep. We provide service for 24 hours. Therefore, we started with this slogan. Out of the 24 heads that are included in this Supplementary Demands for Grants, 15 are devoted towards enhancing the safety of the Railways. In terms money, this accounts for Rs. 141 crore out of the total demand for Rs. 189 crore. Sir, you would appreciate that Rs. 141 crore have been earmarked for enhancement of safety measures in the Railways.

Sir, you would be happy to know after the Gaisal train accident we thought that there should be some system in place so that this type of head on collision of trains is stopped and the passengers get the relief. I am happy to announce that to prevent worst accidents due to head on collision of trains we would like to take all necessary steps and, therefore, I have proposed a project for design and development of a Digital Axle Counter which would help in preventing collision.

Sir, in regard to the Konkan Railways, I would like to submit that we have to give money for this line this year and also an amount of Rs. 265 crore would have to be given to this project in the next year. Very good work is being done by the Konkan Railways and we are giving them total support. This message should go to the people.

Sir, the Konkan Railway Corporation is organising a live demonstration of Anti-collision Device (ACD) fitted with locomotives on December 18, 1999 at Mazgaon, Goa. This Anti-Collision Device is a very important instrument to avoid accidents of train. The demonstration of the device would, inter-alia show the following features:

1. In the event of any derailment of wagons in a double line section, which obstructs the second line on which another train approaches, the ACD will bring the speeding train to a complete halt.

2. When there is an operational failure due to which a train is moving on a wrong line where another train is already allowed to go, the ACD will control the speed of the approaching train under 25 per kilometer and the train would be brought to an automatic stop if they are likely to collide.

Thirdly, at an unmanned level crossing that is not properly closed, or at a closed gate, if any road vehicle comes on to the track, the device could be activated by the gate man at the level crossing which will bring the approaching train to a halt. Fourthly, at the unmanned level crossing the device will detect any approaching train from a distance of one or two kilometres by initiating hooters and lights.

In the second stage of development the device at the unmanned level crossing will be activated even when any road vehicle is stuck on the track at that crossing. The device also acts as a driver alert device. After every fifteen minutes, the driver gets a signal and if he does not acknowledge it by pressing a button, the device will warn that audio signal is not received and then automatically applies brakes and brings the train to a halt. This is a very useful device. Konkan Railway is already using it. We are supporting them now because they are doing very good work. We are trying our best, but ultimately they will stand on their own.

Regarding the unmanned level crossings, if we want to cover all the 24,000 and odd of them we would need an amount of Rs.200 crore. That is why we requested the Members of Parliament that they should take up the work of at least one level crossing. If they take up the work of one level crossing, the Railways will be prepared to take up the work of another level crossing in their constituency. We have decided that Members of Parliament can help build one level crossing in their constituencies after which the Railways will provide them with another level crossing. By this the constituency will ultimately stand to gain.

Somaiyaji emphasised the need for passenger amenities. Dr. Laxminarayan Pandey and Shri K.P. Singh Deo also spoke about it. Many of our friends have spoken about it. They were correct when they said that we have to utilise our land for commercial purposes. I appreciate the concern of all Members of Parliament. Sir, after becoming the Minister of Railways I had set Chambers of Commerce as members in it. In this area we want to go in for joint ventures. No employee will be disturbed. I do not want that any employee be disturbed. If we want additional funds we have to mobilise our own resources. How do we do that? To do that, we have to go in for commercial utilisation of land. With that purpose in view I held a meeting of the task force. Our Member (Traffic) is the Chairman of that Task Force. The task force will submit its report within two days. We will allow joint ventures in the areas of model stations, wagon advertisements, inside stations and trains for passenger amenities and even in track renewals.

Sir, before the end of this millennium, on experimental basis we are starting a project which deals with innovative financing package for funding of gauge conversion project in Gujarat linking Pipawah Port with Surendranagar station of Western Railway. An MOU between the port of Pipawah and Indian Railways will be signed to implement this project jointly which will form the basis for getting Governmental approval. We are going through this process because many people are asking us for gauge conversions and laying of new tracks. If we do not have enough money to do all those projects, we have to at least allow people who want to invest their money in those projects. They can invest their money in a joint venture with Railways. That is why we have decided to give this opportunity to the private sector and the public sector for the betterment of the Railways. If our condition is not good, we cannot fulfil the requirements of the people.

Shri Madhav Rao Scindia did a good work when he was the Railway Minister. When I talked with him one day, he pointed out to me that this was a very crucial year for Railways from economic, security and safety point of view. He cautioned me to go about the job in a proper manner and that this is a very risky year. I know, Sir, that this is a rough and tough job. Regarding what Priya-da has said, yes, we stopped all the passes. I have stopped utilising my MOR discretion also in this regard. I have only allowed continuance of two complimentary passes for the Mother Teresa organisation. That is only a continuation. I gave nothing new.

As far as Upgradation quota is concerned, we have stopped this because we do not want it to be misused.

Regarding super cyclone in Orissa, after the super cyclone, all the railway stations have been damaged, and the Railways will repair them. We will also repair the stations of three major areas, especially Paradeep, Puri and Khurda areas. Shri K.P. Singh Deo and other hon. Members had requested to do something for their State. We will definitely take care of all that can be done.

Similarly, for model villages, whatever the hon. Members have suggested to adopt areas, of course, we will try to consider that.

We think, the provision of medical facilities also is a major factor there. We are preparing a plan to send our medical train or medical van which will go from village to village. We will also send our doctors, nurses and sisters to look after the people there.

Regarding security, I have already said that we have to set up our own intelligence branch and network. For the safety and security point of view, we have already started taking training from the Home Ministry. We have found out that there are some vulnerable areas. Sir, you will appreciate that there are some dangerous areas as well as isolated areas. Take the case of Gaisal. It is an isolated area. Similarly, take the case of Guwahati. It is a dangerous area. My friend from Kokrajhar is not present here. He asked me that they want more trains there. But our point is that how will the trains run punctually there, if in the whole North-East, we cannot run the trains in the night? About six months ago, the State Government said that they would not like any train to run in the night time. Now, the law and order situation is very bad in the North-East. Day before yesterday, one engineer from the Railways went for some enquiry but he has been kidnapped. One person has been murdered also. They say, `do not come.' So, if railway people are being stopped to work, it will be very difficult for them to examine and undertake the work there.