More Amar Chitra Katha than a budget: Former railway minister Dinesh Trivedihttps://indianexpress.com/article/business/budget/railway-budget-suresh-prabhu-more-amar-chitra-katha-than-a-budget-former-railway-minister-dinesh-trivedi/

More Amar Chitra Katha than a budget: Former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi

Dinesh Trivedi, Trinamool Congress, former railway minister, discusses rail budget 

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Former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi (Express Photo By Amit Mehra)

Are you happy with the new projects in the rail budget?

This is not a budget, this is more Amar Chitra Katha than a budget. In the history of India, this is the first time a budget has been presented where there were no figures. This is like coming to the AGM of a company without a balance sheet. Budget is not about a bedroll here and a tissue paper there this is a mockery. For 1 hour and 50 minutes he made fools of the people.

Was it a fit case to raise fares?

You are losing both passengers and freight… It is possible you are losing it because fares have been hiked to an extent where elasticity of cost does not work for you anymore. Passengers are migrating to Volvo bus and air. Something is wrong. In fact there is a clear case for reduction of freight rates. Hikes during the year have already upped rates across the board by 11%.

What is your assessment of the fiscal health of the railways?

Last year the projected traffic was worth Rs 1.83 lakh crore, what he got was Rs 1.56 lakh crore. So there is a 10% fall in overall earning whereas in the 2016-17 budget he has projected an earning of Rs 1,84,819 crore. He has not been able to meet last year’s target, how can he meet this new one? The last budget was a mirage, this budget too is a mirage.

The 92% operating ratio target has been feted.

It is absolute humbug. The overall figure of depreciation is Rs 25,000 per year, there is an arrear of Rs 1 lakh crore. So in essence the railways are bankrupt and when the seventh Pay Commission is implemented they will need Rs 36,000 crore whereas their earnings, even if we take into account a 10% increase, will only be Rs 15,000 crore. Where will the money come from?

How do you see the role of railways in the India growth story?

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When Arun Jaitley talks about 7% growth, in real terms it will not be more than 5% because there is always a 2-3% difference between the rail growth and GDP growth. So if railways are growing at less than 5%, the GDP growth cannot be more than 3% or, as per new figures, 4%. Around the world freight rates have been directly linked to GDP growth and the fact that freight growth is negative shows there is something seriously wrong with the economy.