Terming as unprecedented the provision of Rs 1.31 lakh crore for railways’ capital expenditure, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today said the budget is growth oriented. A new era has begun by not only adhering to fiscal prudence but also bringing social equity at the same time, Prabhu said after the presentation of the General Budget by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
There was no separate Rail Budget this time as it was merged with the General Budget under the government’s agenda for reforms.
Describing the budget as growth oriented, Prabhu said, “The growth will happen because of huge investments that is happening. For example in railways, the provision for Rs 1.31 lakh cr for capital expenditure is unprecedented in railway history.” The capital expenditure was pegged at Rs 1.21 lakh crore last year.
He said the infrastructure investment will spur growth, while the social sector spending will bring equity for a new society and a new economy in the country. Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “bold step”, he said the budget has the “imprint” of Prime Minister’s ideas.
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With railways plagued by repeated derailments, government today proposed setting up of a special safety fund of Rs 1 lakh crore that will cover upgradation of tracks and signalling besides elimination of unmanned level crossings.
The Railway Budget also provides for commissioning of new railway lines of 3,500 km will against 2,800 kms in 2016-17. Emphasising on safety, the Budget proposed elimination of all unmanned level crossings on the broad gauge network by 2020.
Addressing concerns of the differently-abled persons, Jaitley announced that 500 stations would be made disabled friendly. The Budget also promised to equip all coaches with bio toilets and announced “Clean my coach’ App for passengers.
In order to encourage E-ticketing, Jaitley announced withdrawal of service charges from tickets booked through IRCTC. Railway PSUs IRCTC, IRFC and Concor are to be listed on various stock exchanges.