Communist Party of India has expressed apprehension that the Railways would not get “enough priority” and the public service carrier’s projects may be “delayed” following the Cabinet decision to scrap separate Railway Budget and merge it with the General Budget.
“Railway budget and Railway department should be independent because big infrastructure is to be built. If it’s mixed with general departments, I am afraid it will not get enough priority,” CPI General Secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said.
To a query that Railways now would not have to pay dividend liability, estimated at Rs 9,700 crore, following the merger, he said, “Dividend can be cancelled even now. After all, its a government department. Dividend system should be cancelled, and more funds should be allocated to Railways.”
Noting that Railways, which caters to millions of people, has to take up development projects, including introducing faster trains and reconstruction of old bridges, he said, “For all that, every time you have to get sanction from Finance Department”.
“Once it (project estimates) goes there, estimates have to be accepted by the Finance Department. Then for each item, they need the Finance Department’s sanction, and they will get (funds) in instalments. That will all be delayed. I don’t think it’s a good proposal,” Reddy told PTI.
Asked if the merger of the budget may lead to privatisation of Railways, he said, “Quite likely”.
“Finance Department will look at it (Railway projects) as a commercial venture (and not as a public service ones) and then in the commercial venture they will seek private participation”, he said, noting that some services, including canteen have been outsourced to the private sector already.