Historic returns on capital investment

Written by Agencies | New Delhi, February 26: | Updated: Feb 27 2008, 00:26am hrs
Adding a garnish of some Bollywood masala to the 2008-09 Railway Budget, Lalu Prasad likened the 'historic' success of the rail network to the megahit movie 'Chak De India'.

"In the proud history of independent India, it is for the first time that the returns on the capital investment in the Railways will reach 21 per cent," the Railway Minister announced as he presented his fifth Rail Budget.

Prasad, drawing a parallel with the Shahrukh Khan starrer, which was based on the game of hockey, said: "We are scoring goal after goal in every match. Every child in the country will now say 'Chak De Railway'."

The Railway Minister, whose inimitable sense of humour was well in place as he presented the Budget, launched himself into verse in Urdu to describe the much-talked-about turnaround of the railways.

"Sab kah rahe hain hum ne gazab kiya hai. Karodon ka munafa har ek sham diya hai. Phal salon mein ab dega paudha jo lagaya hai. Seva ka smaran ka hamne farz nibhaya hai," he said as the House burst into laughter and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee was also seen laughing away.

The poetry was about the Railways doing wonders and earning crores as profits. "The sapling we planted will bear fruit now," Lalu said in the poem.

At the request of some members, he translated the poetry into his accented English, which again had the House in rapture. "They are saying that Lalu Yadav has planted a fruit tree and every year it is a duty of mine to grow fruit trees," he said in the translation. Chatterjee then said in Hindi that there would be no problems in the Railways.

The Budget speech was peppered with such humorous asides and poetry, not allowing the interest of the House to wane.

India Inc gives thumbs-up to Lalu's budget

Indian industry hailed Railway Budget 2008-09 as pragmatic and futuristic, saying the ongoing rationalisation of freight rates and lowering of fares would boost the growth momentum.

Terming the budget as anti-inflationary and progressive, the industry gave a thumbs-up to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad who, it felt, was on the right track by focusing on modernisation and expansion to transform the world's second largest transportation network into a modern and cost-efficient entity.

Welcoming the lowering of freight rates on petrol and diesel cargoes, industry chamber Confederation of Indian Industry said, "This reduction will help offset to some extent the impact of the hike in fuel prices".

However, oil companies are unlikely to pass on the benefits to the consumers as the gain on account of five per cent reduction in freight charges works out to a measly Rs 50 crore a year.

FICCI Chief Rajeev Chandrasekhar said the announcement to cut rates by five per cent is a good and strong anti-inflationary measure. It also welcomed the Minister's proposal for mobilising Rs 1 lakh crore for improving the network through public-private partnership mode, stating that this would generate opportunities for India's private sector.

ASSOCHAM President Venugopal Dhoot said such measures would also help the Railways attract more traffic. The chamber, however, said some freight relaxations should have been extended to steel and cement industry as well.