Thursday, June 23, 2016

FP Staff Jun 22, 2016 

The Narendra Modi government may scrap the practice of presenting a separate Railway Budget that has been going on since the days of the British Raj, according to The Times of India. A panel headed by Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy recommended that the integration of the Railway Budget with the General Budget, the report added.

The NDA government has asked inputs from the Railway minister on the 20-page note titled 'Dispensing with the Rail Budget,' said an Indian Express report. The Department of Economic Affairs, the finance secretary and the Cabinet secretary will also be involved in the discussions, the report said.

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. PIB

The panel argued that the rail budget has become an exercise to dispense popular measures and have failed to address the "problem of under-investment". The panel pointed out that as per the Railway Act of 1989, the Centre can change tariffs without involving the Parliament. The report also added that the panel noted that scrapping the exercise will also lower the stature of the Railway ministry.

In the 2016-17 Railway Budget, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu made no changes either in passenger fares or freight rates. He had also announced the introduction of three new super-fast trains and creation of dedicated north-south, east-west and east coast freight corridors by 2019.

The minister pegged the budget estimates at Rs 1.21 lakh crore with focus on capital expenditure with a mix of various sources of funding in order to ensure that the projects are given assured funding.

Gross traffic receipts for the coming fiscal was fixed at Rs 1.84 lakh crore, with passenger earnings growth pegged at 12.4 percent and earning target budgeted at Rs 51,012 crore. The freight traffic was pegged at an incremental tariff of 50 million tonnes, anticipating a healthier growth in the core sector of the economy. Goods earning was proposed at Rs 1.17 lakh crore.

In February, after the Railway Budget was announced, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha told Firstpost'sSanjay Singh, "the Rail Budget is not about announcement of new trains and number of stops a particular train will have. It should never have been like this. It means much more than that. Rail connects people in all parts of the country and carries persons of all hues, all strata. The rail minister has made right decisions. The prime minister is very keen to see that the face of Indian Railway is changed for the good."

However, if the recommendations of the Niti Aayog panel is taken into consideration, Suresh Prabhu's February budget could be the last one.

With inputs from agencies

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