The Opposition today attacked the government for doing away with a 92-year old tradition of presenting a separate Railway Budget saying the previous practice was more result-oriented and sought a clear roadmap for making the network financially viable.
Initiating the debate on the Demand for Grants for Railways 2017-18, Congress member KH Muniyappa said the convention of presenting a separate Budget has been changed and adding that a separate Rail Budget would have led to more development of the sector.
Muniyappa, a former Minister of State for Railways, however, praised some of the efforts of the government with regard to improving freight capacity by adding 3-4 separate freight corridors, increasing the number of wagons of goods trains and the bullet train project.
Along with the bullet train, the government should also think of improving the existing 65,000 km railway infrastructure as it would help improve amenities, speed and saving time for three crore passengers, Muniyappa said.
While Rs 1 lakh crore was required for one bullet train, Rs 3 lakh crore would be required for renovation and maintenance of existing 65,000 km infrastructure, he said.
Participating in the debate, TMC MP and former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said the railways should be made a catalyst for GDP growth and there was a need to make it financially sound. He said currently, the railways was spending Rs 110 to earn Rs 100 and demanded a roadmap for enhancing its overall operations.
Trivedi accused the government of misleading the House by projecting a growth trajectory in freight, passenger volume and revenue for 2017-18 while comparing them with the revised estimates of current fiscal. He said the comparison should have been made with the budget estimate of 2016-17.
Quoting official figures, he said there has been a steady decline in volumes of passenger and freight, which have severely affected the revenue of railways. Trivedi also slammed the “flexi fare” scheme, saying it was making a severe impact on finances of railways. He also said that “the identity of India is Himalayas, Maa Ganga and the railways which connects the entire country.”
Defending the merger of the rail budget with the general budget and asserting that a separate rail budget had become a tool for fulfilling political agenda, BJP’s Yogi Adityanath said the merger was in the interest of the railways and its passengers.