Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu told the Lok Sabha Tuesday that his ministry was looking for new funding avenues, including a safety cess, to get the cash-strapped railways back on the financial recovery track.
“ I have announced plans for setting up Rs 1 lakh crore safety fund (Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshan Kosh). We have taken up the proposal with the Ministry of Finance. We are trying to leverage it through some kind of security surcharge,” Prabhu said. The Lok Sabha was discussing the Rail Budget, which was later passed.
Prabhu also commended his ministry for substantially increasing its capital expenditure figures calling it the “beginning of a long march.”
“We are preparing a plan till 2030 for reorganising, restructuring and rejuvenating railways. All states, MPs, and stakeholders will be consulted for making the plan till 2030,” he said.
Prabhu played down criticism of the proposal to introduce expensive bullet trains, arguing that the government had secured a soft loan of Rs 1 lakh crore from Japan at an interest as low as 0.1 per cent for a period of 50 years. “The technology which India will get from Japan will help in improving the railway systems in the country,” Prabhu said.
While Opposition parties criticised the functioning of the railways during the debate, Prabhu appreciated former PM Manmohan Singh for signing the MoU with Japan for bullet train project.
He also called for changing the railways’ accounting system to make it more outcome-oriented. “We will review project financing norms… Monitor equity RR (rate of return), debt service coverage ratio to ensure returns are calculated in a right manner,” he said.
The ministry, Prabhu added, was trying to increase the speed of all trains by removing bottlenecks and decongesting the network.
Participating in the debate earlier, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge had said: “The government is misleading people. They are saying we are doing so much, when actually they are not… They are diverting attention of people… You people indulge more in marketing than actual work.”