mamata shall outdo laloo?

Malda, May 24: Expectations are running high in Malda with Mamata Banerjee taking charge of Rail Bhavan.

From newly elected Congress MP Mausam Noor to the merchant chamber of commerce — everybody has drawn up a list of demands for Mamata, especially since the Trinamul Congress chief is known to have shared a rapport with A.B.A. Ghani Khan Chowdhury.

Mausam, Ghani Khan’s niece, will demand a Rajdhani from “Mamatadi”, a pair of superfast trains between Calcutta and Siliguri via Malda, besides introduction of electric trains in the division. “I am very happy that Mamatadi has become the railway minister. The neglected Malda division will definitely get a better deal. We want a Rajdhani and a pair of superfast trains, connecting Siliguri to Calcutta via Malda. We also want electric trains,” she said. In Malda division, trains run on diesel.

in the eighties, when ghani khan chowdhury was the minister for railways, wags in the press used to remark that the name 'indian railways' was a misnomer, because all the action seemed to happen in malda and and bengal. in the nineties, jaffer sharief, ram vilas paswan, nitish kumar and laloo yadav- all tried to follow his outstanding example of never looking beyond one's own family, village, district and state while ruling the railways.

now, it looks like mamata banerjee plans to outdo all of them- flagging off new trains in her home state just a couple of weeks after assuming office, promising relief to supporters and even checking the menus on trains to see that they're bengali enough. does one have to wait for the railway budget to realize that there'd be nothing in it for people living beyond mamata's fiefdom?

the railways is just one large business among many that the central government in delhi owns- i wouldn't say manages, governs etc., because that'd indicate an objective, professional approach to managing the affairs of those businesses. the people who seek and are offered these top posts run, and are allowed to run, these businesses like shopkeepers who are given charge of their rivals' businesses, temporarily. they run down these business in the process of running them for their own special interests- the larger public interest be damned.

one reason, actually two reasons, why no national party wants the government to withdraw from these businesses and get down to the serious business of governance is that these businesses help ruling parties to 1) build and foster patronage networks across states and 2) make a lot of money.

if public sector businesses are one way of achieving those two objectives, ministries that oversee and regulate industries are another, more subtle and unobtrusive way. why do so many contenders for ministerial posts want information technology and communications, chemicals and steel, petroleum and surface transport etc?

and why does no one want women and child welfare etc? or education without higher education? if control over the health ministry didn't mean control over large government hospitals like aiims, or over countless corporate hospitals and colleges- who'd want it?

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