For the first time after Independence the rail budget and the Union Budget has been merged by the NDA government. Former Minister of Railways and leader of Congress, Mallikarjun Kharge said on Wednesday that the Rail Budget has lost its identity after it was merged with the main budget. Its like a bigger fish swallowed the smaller fish. “Rail budget ko main budget mein merge karne se uski identity chali gai. Badi machhli chhoti macchli ko nigal gai,” said Kharge.
It was decided last year that 2017 Union Budget will see the two budgets merged. They said that the capital at charge of the Railways on which annual dividend is paid by the Railways will be wiped off. Consequently, there will be no dividend liability for Railways from 2017-18 while Ministry of Railways continue to get Gross Budgetary support for capital expenditure. This will save Railways from the liability of payment of approximately Rs 10,000 crore as annual dividend to the Government of India which after adjusting the subsidy in payment of dividend would give a net benefit of about Rs 5000 crore to the Railways. From this year on, Railways will not be required to pay annual dividend of around Rs 9,000 crore to the Finance Ministry.
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Kharge criticised the government for insisting on presenting budget before elections so that they can lure voters. Kharge, who serves as leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, also criticised the government’s move to scrap the rail budget, presented separately for years. “It is a big mistake. It will erase public sector,” he said.
The new merger has a total allocation of Rs. 39,61,354 crore for infrastructure and Railways is Rs. 1,31,000 crore. From now, there shall be no service charge on tickets booked through IRCTC. For passenger safety, a Raksha coach with a corpus of Rs one lakh crore for five years will be provided.