Sunday, June 14, 2015

Make train services viable: panel

  • Sanjay Vijayakumar

‘Regulator should be kept out ofRail Bhavan’

Improving accountability, decentralising power and setting up an independent regulator are the key elements for the restructuring of Indian Railways, NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy says.
The panel on restructuring of the Indian Railways, headed by Mr. Debroy, submitted its final report on Friday. The committee has set a five-year timeframe for implementing its recommendations and has suggested doing away with the Railway Budget, Dr. Debroy told The Hindu in an exclusive interview.
“Without commercial accounting, I do not even know what the rate of return on the projects is. This is not just about attracting private capital flows, but even with government and Railways, you need to know what your return is. So if I am borrowing the funds at, say, 7 per cent, I need to know what the return on projects is … at the end of it all, I need to do the cost-benefit analysis of how much it costs to run a train and is that train viable. You cannot do that without commercial accounting,” he said.
He said even if the projects were taken up for fulfilling social objectives, they needed to be accounted for and clearly quantified and funded out of the Budget. “Because, if we have the Railway Budget, the expectation of every MP is that give me a train for my constituency. And you are setting up a regulator, which is going to recommend or set the tariffs. So there is no purpose to the Budget,” he said.
On the independent regulator, Mr. Debroy said the recommendation was to set it up statutorily and not executively. “Why statutorily? Because we want the regulator to be independent and we want the regulator to be accountable to Parliament. We want the regulator to be outside the clutches of Rail Bhavan with a separate budget. The Ministry would set only policies.”


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