Calling the Railway Budget a big disappointment, the Opposition Thursday said it neither outlined steps to expand railway connectivity nor had substantive measures for improving passenger amenities. The Congress and the Left termed the financial health of the Railways as the most “worrisome” aspect of the Rail Budget.
“The Operating Ratio has increased from 88.5 per cent last year to 92 per cent in this year’s budget which is a sign of fiscal mismanagement. Capital expenditure has been increased to 1.21 lakh crore this year which would be a further strain on the finances of the railways,” said senior Congress leader Ashwani Kumar.
A CPM statement too spoke about the state of the Railways’ financial health. “Last year’s performance has been much below the anticipated earnings by the railways. Both freight and passenger earnings have significantly dropped and the gap between the budgetary estimates and the revised estimates of railway revenue is around a massive Rs 17,000 crore… Further, the Railways require around Rs. 32,000 crore to fulfil the obligations and recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission. This means that the Railways are starting the financial year with a shortfall of nearly Rs 50,000 crore,” it said.
The CPM statement also spoke about the budget not addressing the issue of expanding railway connectivity and failing to announce substantive measures for improving passenger amenities. “On both these counts the budget was very disappointing. Most importantly, given the alarming rise in rail accidents it was hoped that better measures for ensuring safety standards and financial allocations for enhancing safety measures would be taken up.” the CPM said.
The Congress claimed that the repeated reference in the Railways Minister’s speech to innovative financial mechanisms is an indicator of passing off of prime government property to private players though the PPP mode.
“Under the PPP development model the cost of services to the consumers will be enhanced many fold without a suitable and credible regulatory framework in place. The statement of the Railways Minister showing action on 139 promises in the last budget is an admission of the fact that the promises made in the last budget have at best only been partly fulfilled. The reality on the ground is vastly different,” said Kumar.
He added that there was no roadmap in the budget for ensuring punctuality of trains except a bizarre suggestion to state governments to stagger office timings.
“Wi-Fi facilities have been promised at 100 stations this year and in additional 400 stations in the next two years. Even if this promise is achieved it is insignificant considering the total number of stations in the country is 7131 and the number of rail passengers is 800 crore annually,” he said.