In November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought in Suresh Prabhu to take charge of the Indian Railways.
In November last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought in Suresh Prabhu to take charge of the Indian Railways. But a year later, statistics reveal that under Prabhu, Railways is hardly doing better than during the same period last year, before the Cabinet reshuffle in 2014.
While Railways has already fallen short of its targets for earnings, its capital expenditure figures show that it is hopelessly lagging behind in spending money even when the funds are assured — signifying tardy execution of work on all critical fronts.
More importantly, figures reveal that the pace of spending money has either become worse now compared to the year-ago period or is nearly identical to last year, depending on the plan heads.
By the end of second quarter of this financial year in September, Indian Railways has been able to spend only Rs 26,265 crore in capital expenditure under key plan heads, which is just a 44 per cent utilisation of the funds with six more months to go.
Figures also indicate that Railways had been doing better on that front last year when it had spent Rs 27,468 crore by end of September in 2014.
On renewal of tracks, it has so far spent only Rs 2,618 crore whereas the figure stood at Rs 3,412 crore last year — 30 per cent more than the corresponding period last year. On passenger amenities, Railways has spent Rs 341 crore, just 19 per cent of the budgeted funds so far, while last year it had spent Rs 357 crore on the same.
In terms of some of the high-value work, figures show that not much has changed.
In making new lines, Railways has been able to spend Rs 2,982 crore, just about Rs 500 crore more compared with the corresponding period last year, while for gauge conversion, the increase from last year is just about Rs 27 crore at Rs 1,589 crore. But significantly, it has been able to utilise only about 46 per cent of the capital funds it allocated for this purpose.
The only area where Railways slightly shines this year vis-a-vis its performance last year is doubling of tracks, where the capital expenditure is Rs 2,309 crore — Rs 702 crore more than last year. But then again, this is only 32 per cent utilisation of the funds it has allocated for this. Doubling of lines was touted as the cornerstone of Prabhu’s Rail Budget this year.
In terms of road safety works related to level crossings — an area marred by accidents and deaths in the past 10 months — the spending has been Rs 180 crore this financial year, around Rs 30 crore less when compared with the corresponding period last year, the ministry’s own figures show. Even Railway Research has seen below-par spending so far this year.
For Indian Railways, the latest figures also indicate that the large scale delegation of financial powers from ministry to zonal/local units which Prabhu initiated since taking over is yet to show a significant difference in the pace of spending.
In fact the latest figures mirror the PMO’s concerns early September when it had pointed out to the railway minister through a letter that the speed of spending of budget funds through execution of works leaves much to be desired.