When building a railway line in Kashmir is entrusted to Laloo Prasad Yadav

…you know something will go wrong

It is common knowledge that Laloo Prasad Yadav, as India’s minister for railways, is running the national railway system to ground.

But as part of a strategy announced by the Vajpayee government, Indian Railways was entrusted with a challenging responsibility — of improving the railway network in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, as a harbinger of economic development to the terrorist-affected state. After the Manmohan Singh government took over, that job fell on to the shoulder of Laloo Prasad Yadav. It has just fallen off it. Railway projects for Kashmir are being put on the back burner.

The reason of course, is paucity of funds. Laloo Prasad Yadav’s populist railway budget is already risking the personal security of railway passengers; it is now risking national security. The railways ministry has traditionally been a means to deliver barrels of pork; the task of better connecting Kashmir to the rest of India cannot rely on this perversely populist institution.

It may be impossible to sack Laloo Prasad Yadav or prevent the railway ministry from running just gravy trains, but it is possible for the Prime Minister’s office to set up a separate well-funded and well-staffed unit tasked with the economic development of Jammu & Kashmir. It must do so immediately.

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