Rail Board Chief Dutifully Defends Proposals

New Delhi, Jan 30: | Updated: Jan 31 2004, 05:30am hrs
Defending the interim budget, railway board chairman RK Singh has said all targets are achievable and the interim proposals are not populist. He was speaking at the customary press conference after minister Nitish Kumar presented the vote-on-account for the Railways in Parliament on Friday. Mr Singh said there was nothing political about introduction of 18 new trains. Many of the announcements were merely reiteration of what had been announced earlier, he said, adding in any case, the government had to inform Parliament about the production schedules and other process for new trains. If any study had recommended introduction of these trains, he answered in the affirmative, saying even after they get started there would be quarterly reviews. There were cases in the past where trains were discontinued or downgraded from Shatabdi to inter-city as a result of review, he pointed.

On the challenging target of 570 million tonne freight for 2004-05, he said his department was geared up to achieve this. We have already surpassed the freight loading target of 515 million tonne and have touched 518.74 million tonne.

The rail budget was anyway scheduled to be presented in February and the preparation and targets had already been prepared accordingly, he said.

Emphasising that this was only an interim budget, Mr Singh said the base for the next financial years budget would be on the basis of the vote-on-account. We take approval for four months to ensure that the on-going projects and the regular expenditure are continued, he said.

The funds worth Rs 20,000 crore for the remote area rail sampark yojana would be met through additional budgetary support, multilateral funding and non-budgetary initiative, Mr Singh said.

According to a board member, the ambitious target of Rs 1,877 crore rise in gross traffic receipts was achievable as it was based on conservative estimates and the current economic buoyancy. A new legislation, which would come into force on July 1, empowers the General Railway Police in 26 offences. Now, the GRP would be empowered to not only arrest but also prosecute the offenders, Mr Singh said.

On the issue of safety of tracks, he said the six-year project will be completed before schedule. Started during 2001-02 to cover 16,500km, as much as 8,500km have already been covered, he said.