Millennium Post

Yes, Prabhu sides with aam aadmi

Railways will develop a national plan envisioning a long-term perspective to planning for augmenting the rail network in consultation with all stakeholders including state governments, public representatives and other relevant central ministries.

This was stated by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu after presenting the Rail Budget 2016-17. “We have made the budget keeping the common people’s interest in mind... We have tried to modernise the system, upgradation the safety measures,” Prabhu told reporters outside Parliament.

Asserting that railways will continue to improve passenger amenities in future, he said, “For the first time, National Railway Plan will be made keeping the interest of the country.” The Minister blamed the previous railway administrations for the prevailing condition in the national transporter.

“The public transporters’ financial condition is worrisome today because the way railways was managed in the past. So in order to come out of this situation, we have tried to address the issues,” he said.

“The budget was prepared in such a condition when there were big challenges before us and which were beyond our control. The freight movement, pay commission burden, despite that we have tried to protect people’s interests in the budget,” Prabhu said. The budget has been made keeping in mind the need of the future and also the present requirement. Dwelling on financial problems, he said, “Finance Ministry has its own compulsions. Despite the constraints, we have increased the Plan size to Rs 1.21 lakh crore for the next fiscal. It will be spent on the capacity augmentation like doubling projects.”

Referring to joint venture route adopted for executing rail projects, he said, “We have also joined hands with state governments to implement projects in respective states. It is a first Rail Budget where capacity augmentation is the main focus.”

Meanwhile, government will provide budgetary support of Rs 4,301 crore to Indian Railways for 2016-17, representing an increase of 15.58 per cent from the revised estimate for the current fiscal.

In the current fiscal, the budgetary support has been lowered by Rs 1,007 crore from Rs 4,729 crore to Rs 3,721 crore, according to the Railway Budget for 2016-17, which was tabled by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in Parliament. “Railways are proposing a Plan size of Rs 1,21,000 crore in 2016-17,” he said in the budget.

The intention in 2016-17 is to improve revenues and ensure appropriate investments which can continue the road-map of decongestion and enhance line-capacity enhancement as detailed in 2015-16.

“The focus is on enhanced CAPEX with a mix of various sources of funding in order to ensure that the projects are given assured funding,” he said.

Gross Traffic Receipts have been kept at Rs 1,84,820 crore, he said, adding passenger earnings growth has been pegged at 12.4 per cent and earnings target has accordingly been budgeted at Rs 51,012 crore. The freight traffic is pegged at incremental traffic of 50 million tonnes, anticipating a healthier growth in the core sector of economy, he said.

Subdued growth in revenues - both passenger and freight - presented a compelling reason for another increase in fares, but the minister didn’t give in to hiking fare as an easy solution to resources woes, said Mukesh Butani, Managing Partner, BMR Legal.

Instead, the budget proposed enhanced revenue mobilisation through more innovative means, Butani said.

“Goods earnings is accordingly proposed at Rs 1,17,933 crore. Other coaching and sundries are projected at Rs 6,185 crore and Rs 9,590 crore, respectively,” he said.
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