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Railway Budget: 2012-13
Vinod Anand | 10 Aug 2013

Railway Budget: 2012-13 [Vinod Anand] Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi has presented a realistic budget for 2012-13. He has increased passenger fares while stressing that this they were subsidizing freight rates and so needed to be rationalized. It is the first time that passenger fares ‘have been increased in the last 10 years. The ‘passenger fares have been increased “marginally’ by 2 paise per km for suburban and ordinary second class; 3 paise per km for mail/express second class; 5 paise per km for sleeper class; 10 paise per km for AC Chair Car, AC 3 tier and First Class; 15 paise per km for AC 2 tier and 30 paise per km for AC I. But when calculated in terms of the distance covered the fare hike is up by many rupees. Even the price of platform tickets has been raised to Rs 5 from Rs 3. Incidentally, the Minister also announced that since during the last 10 years, fuel prices shot up drastically, henceforth the fares will fluctuate along with the fuel prices. They will go up if diesel is costlier and come down if diesel becomes cheaper in the international market. He has thus tried to follow the trend introduced by oil companies to free petrol prices from government control. The impact of this will be known only when fuel rates shoot up in future. It is true that the Railways cannot run at a loss. They have to mop up revenue in order to run the show. If the previous Railway ministers had refrained from increasing the fares then that was more owing to political compulsions than because of sound economic considerations. That is why we call it a realistic budget. At the same time it is also true that a realistic budget need not be a popular budget. Freight rates, however, were not raised. The Railway Minister had no need to do so because only a little before the budget he had surprised the markets by hiking freight rates of all commodities including food grains, fertilizer, cement, coal, and petroleum products. With that freight hike across the board, Railways aim to earn between Rs 15,000 crore to Rs 20,000 crore in the next fiscal. The Railway Minister laid a lot of stress on safety and modernization. Pointing out that he took over as the Railway Minister on a day when there was a train accident, he said that he would work towards making the Railway one of the safest modes of transport in the country. In this connection he announced the setting up of a Railway Safety C9mmittee, and stressed that Indian Railways need to learn from Europe where there have been no major accidents for the past several decades even though trains run at a very speed there. He added that all unmanned level crossings would be abolished .in the next five years that signaling system and 1900 km track would be modernized through renewal up-gradation and that trains would be able to run at more than 160 kmph on the upgraded tracks. The tracks would also be able to tackle 25 ton axle load. The Railway minister did make several welcome announcements. Within six months one will notice the changes on the cleanliness front. It has also been decided to do away with the system of open latrines as these dirty the tracks. In about 2,500 compartments there will be bio-toilets. For Railway sportsmen there is good news too. Catering will be entrusted to experts of the top order and efforts will be aimed at providing cuisine of international standards. The ‘Rail Ratna’ Awards are being introduced. Every year 10 outstanding players of the Railways will be awarded. At the same time the railway minister said focus would also be on modernization of railways and the Prime Minister’s advisor Sam Pitroda would head the railway modernization committee. Several modernization programs for the railways were announced for which an investment of Rs 5.60 lakh crore would be required. This was to be expected. After all the Indian Railways run the third largest railroad network in the world spread over some 64,000 km, with 12,000 passenger and 7,000 freight trains each day from as many as 7,083 stations to ferry 23 million travelers and 2.65 million tonnes of goods daily. The Minister said that given the socio-economic role played by the railways in India’s transformation, the time had come for formulating national policy for the network on the lines of those for defence and external affairs. Trivedi said he was looking at the current budget not as an exercise for the next fiscal alone, but also for the entire five year plan, drawing from the Vision 2020 document of his predecessor and current West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Trivedi laid a lot of stress on safety and modernization. Pointing out that he took over as the Railway Minister on a day when there was a train accident, he said that he would work towards making the Railway one of the safest modes of transport in the country. In this connection he announced the setting up of a Railway Safety Committee, and stressed that Indian Railways need to learn from Europe where there have been no major accidents for the past several decades even Though trains run at a very speed there. He added that all unmanned level crossings would be abolished in the next five years that signaling system and 19,000 km of track would be modernized through renewal up-gradation and that trains would be able to run at more than 160 kmph on the upgraded tracks. The tracks would also be able to tackle 25 ton axle load. The Railway Minister started his speech by thanking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. He also took the names of his predecessors in the Railway Ministry in his speech and lauded their efforts in making the railways India’s lifeline. The couplets in Hindi, which he recited, were widely cheered though the brickbats from Laloo and Nitish too were there, as was to be expected. On the whole, Trivedi’s budget was more realistic. He did not play to the gallery but has tried to make the countrymen realize that economic considerations cannot be ignored no matter how strong the political compulsions may be.     PAGE  PAGE 1