Less than two weeks after the Congress got the Railway Ministry back after nearly a decade, party president Sonia Gandhi inaugurated a Rs 2,500 crore rail coach factory in her constituency Rae Bareli. This is the biggest project in her constituency and has been delayed for years.
At the inauguration, Mrs Gandhi said that farmers whose land was acquired for the project will not just get compensation but also jobs with the railways. She gave out appointment letters at the inauguration. More than 1,400 farmers will be offered jobs.
The junior Railways minister, Adhir Ranjan Choudhury, had opposed this jobs-for-land policy in the media, mainly because it was initiated by Mamata Banerjee when she was the Railways Minister in 2010. Mr Choudhury is a known Mamata-baiter in West Bengal, where Ms Banerjee is now chief minister.
Railway Minister Pawan Bansal said that there were precedents to jobs being given in exchange for acquired land for the ministry's projects. He, though, declined to commit to making this a provision in the new Land Acquisition Bill, saying the offer has to be "on a case to case basis". He also said that a standing committee of Parliament is looking into the bill and it will have to be the members' decision on whether to provide jobs for land or not.
The Rae Bareli project is expected to create an additional 3,000 jobs in the support sector for the coach factory. It is expected to rolling out coaches from 2013.