The Rail Budget for 2015 was passed by the Lok Sabha today with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu making a strong pitch...
The Rail Budget for 2015 was passed by the Lok Sabha today with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu making a strong pitch for a massive hike in investment for the Indian Railways.
Announcing several schemes to make the Railways stronger technologically, financially and commercially, he said a strong push would be given to achieve a massive hike in the investment for railways, warning that if this was not done, the national transporter will “sink further and further”.
- BJP issues three-line whip to Lok Sabha MPs for Monday; Government likely to take up Insurance, Finance Bill
- Don’t want to recall days of unrest; Jammu and Kashmir to get statehood at appropriate time: Amit Shah in Lok Sabha
- One Rank One Pension for retired Public Sector Bank employees: Here’s what Modi govt says on OROP question
Allaying apprehensions that railways would be privatised, Prabhu said the behemoth was a national asset and its ownership will continue to remain with the people of India, nothwithstanding projects to seek private participation.
He also announced setting up of high-level new body, Kaya Kalp Council, to be headed by a distinguished person to turn railways into a vibrant organisation commercially with the participation of private sector.
Prabhu also sought to take the states on board declaring that they would be partners in progress of the Railways by executing several projects in their areas.
Detailing the massive increase in the allocation for the states, the Minister gave comparative figures of the last few years to drive home the point that each and every state has got more from the first Rail Budget presented by him.
He said several projects announced by his predecessors have been pending for long for want of funds, adding that raising money from outside including PSUs and multi-lateral agencies like World Bank, ADB and IFC was an option.
Citing the deal with LIC, he said plans were afoot to partner with other PSUs like Coal India to boost railway infrastructure.
Prabhu agreed with the concerns of several members that railways cannot just be a commercial enterprise but added that it can serve the poor only if it was strong and commercially viable.
Rejecting criticism of the freight rate hike proposal, he said it was in fact rationalisation of freight rate as it had gone down in some routes.
Citing a CRISIL report, he said the freight rate hike will have virtually no impact on inflation.
To boost its finances, Prabhu said that railways has joined hands with SBI Cap and set up an advisory board having members like noted bankers KV Kamath and Arundhati Bhattacharya.
Addressing the concerns of several members as to how railways will raise the money as the budget envisages, he said “I am more than confident that we will get the money.””India has a dream for railways and this budget is an action plan to realise it,” he said.
As many Opposition members questioned the viability of PPP projects, Prabhu referred to the budget speeches of previous Railway Ministers like TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, Mallikarjun Kharge and Pawan Bansal of Congress to argue that PPP models had been pushed by them.
He said he was “taking forward the idea of such distinguished persons.”
Capping the almost 14 hours of debate spread over two days, Suresh Prabhu said railways was focussed on boosting its efficiency by taking up projects to doubling and tripling of railway lines.
He said said it will help solve problems like late running of trains and also add to freight carrying capacity.
Acknowledging corruption in railways, Prabhu said officials like DRM, Station Managers are being delegated more and more powers to deal with the issues.
Railways has recently changed the decision making process in the high value tendering and it has empowered General Managers and Divisional Railway Managers to decised on tenders.
He said railways have launched a portal where passengers can upload evidence like photographs and videos captured by mobile phones to expose harassment by RPF or other railway staff.
Giving data, he said Assam and North Eastern states were allocated Rs 5330 cr in this yearRail Budget against over Rs 2330 cr in the last year budget presented by UPA government.
Similarly West Bengal has received Rs 3615 cr against Rs 1604 cr and other states also received a huge hike in their allocation.