With 2017 going down in history as the year when the Rail Budget was subsumed in the General Budget, all eyes are set on the Budget Session scheduled to take place from Wednesday. Following a long list of derailments that saw so many loss of lives, with more than 150 people from Kanpur train accident alone, the ministry is expected to introduce a safety tax to fund Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, its 1.2 lakh crore safety body.
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This may have a direct and significant effect on the second class and AC-3 tier tickets, while ticket prices of AC 1-tier and 2-tier will increase marginally.
The Railways, which has expected Rs. 1.84 lakh crore revenue in the current financial year, but has already lowered down it to Rs. 1.7 lakh crore, would definitely witness a boost in its finances due to the fare hike.
The ministry is also planning to reduce charges on freight, which holds the largest portion of rail revenue. The idea has been introduced to prevent the clients to move to other modes of transport.
It is expected of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to present a separate statement of budget estimates and demand for grants in the General Budget.
It is also believed that, in order to meet part of its capital expenditure, Railways may also get budget support, and may also be allowed to raise extra budgetary sources.
The system of flexi-fare and dynamic pricing for premier trains is expected to continue in 2017-18. With the ministry having sought an exemption from paying dividends to the government this year, a combined budget may also save the Railways Rs. 10,000 crore.
The Indian Railways, a gigantic industry, employing 1.3 million people, carrying 24 million passengers in its 12,000 passenger trains everyday is one of the railway systems which only a few others in the world can outdo.
On the one hand, where the merger of both the budgets is expected to bring gains and save time of the parliamentarians by not having to approve and pass two separate bills, on the other hand it is believed to reduce the transparency of the railway accounts and their performance.