Rail budget for India Inc, not India

Close on the heels of a series of high-profile charges of outright collusion between India’s corporate giants and the Union Government, the Centre on Wednesday unveiled an interim railway budget that kept both passenger fares and freight rates untouched. This was a rude shock in an economy where the masses have been suffering unprecedented inflation for the past few years. Many had felt that the Government would lower train fares or freight rates or both in an effort to soothe the punishing inflation pain.

However, true to its pro-foreigner track record, the government’s interim rail budget talks about plans on involvement of private sector and FDI as part of efforts to ‘modernise the largest transport network in the country’. Presenting the interim budget for four months in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said an independent Rail Tariff Authority is being set up to ‘rationalise fares’ and there is a proposal to expand dynamic pricing of tickets in line with the airline industry.

He announced the launch of 17 new premium trains, 39 express trains and 10 passenger trains in the coming year and providing rail connectivity to Katra and Vaishnodevi in Jammu and Kashmir, and Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast. Reacting to the interim rail budget, captains of industry vied with each other to outpraise the government’s anti-people document.

‘New trains will not benefit Bengal’

The Trinamool Congress slammed the Railway budget as ‘sham’ saying that an outgoing government had no right to frame policies or place budgets. The party’s national general secretary, Mukul Roy, said, ‘This government has no moral or ethical right to place a railway budget. This is just a vote on-account for day to day expenses till a new government takes oath.’ ‘None of the new trains will benefit Bengal’, said a TMC MP.

2-yr low retail inflation

New Delhi:
Retail inflation fell for the second consecutive month and eased to a 24-month low of 8.79 per cent in January mainly due to a drop in food prices. Inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for December was 9.87 per cent down from 11.16 per cent in the previous month.

Factory output dips 0.6%

New Delhi:
The Indian economy’s industrial production growth was negative for the third month in a row, contracting 0.6 per cent in December 2013, mainly due to sluggishness in manufacturing sector.
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