On Railway Budget 2016- ‘17 (New Democracy News Service)

Railway Budget presented by Union Minister for Railways, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, shows utter and callous disregard of the common people by the NDA Govt. It also paints a sorry state of finances and condition of railways under the present dispensation. Every person who travels by rail knows well the sorry condition of railways. But the NDA Govt. has not bothered to address the concerns of the common people for a comfortable, timely and safe travel.
This callous disregard is shown by the fact that while a lot needs to be done, the railway ministry has shows a surplus of Rs. 8720 crores from the past year. Further out of a total of 40,000 crores of budgetary support last year, over 20% was returned unutilized by the railways. Whether it was just a commonly played gimmick of allotting more and spending less or lack of willingness of NDA Govt. to spend on the travel for common people, it just shows their lack of concern for the people. While budgetary support has been kept at the last year’s level despite price rise, no method of generation of finances for the projects announced has been outlined except alluding to “innovative financing system”. It only shows that the Govt. has no intention of carrying out the meagre announcements it has made. This lack of focus on improving passenger services for common people is much more evident as cost of fuel has declined enabling the Govt. to spend more on improvements.
Modi led NDA Govt. has gone further on the road of privatization. While several services including catering services have already been privatized, in this Budget several initiatives announced are marked for PPP mode i.e. profits for private and losses for the public. Redevelopment of railway stations, construction of warehouses, sidings etc. all has been left for the private sector. Announcement was made of inviting bids for even the two loco plants announced. This only shows that Modi Govt. has left the development to the private sector and its profit seeking.
Though no increase is announced in the passenger fares and freight charges after the steepest hike last year, Govt. has kept such announcement for a later day. Anyway allusion to future hike in freight charges was made by the Railway Minister in the name of rationalizing the freight structure. Successive Govts. have reduced budget exercises only to accounting while announcing increase in prices round the year. Railways share in the freight transport has progressively declined due to lackluster performance of railways and increased costs.
Govt. announcement of shifting more traffic to higher axel load without corresponding increase in expenditure on maintenance of tracks demonstrates short sighted nature of those running Indian railways.
Only renaming the already existing facilities in the name of leaders of Sangh parivar cannot bring any improvement. Renaming of unreserved coaches as Deen Dayal coaches can not improve the abysmal conditions in which the people travel and suffer in unreserved coaches. Similarly renaming coolies as sahayaks without any announcement regarding their welfare cannot improve the lot of these labouring people.
The lopsided emphasis on certain select routes while ignoring the vast areas of the country only shows misplaced priorities of NDA Govt. Railway Budget is marked by utter disregard of the concerns of the common people.