Rail minister Mallikarjun Kharge is all set to present his first and UPAII’s last interim budget in the parliament today.
The Indian Railways continues to battle with huge losses, poor maintenance and deteriorating standards. Freight and passenger earnings have shown a decline during the April-December 2013 period. While freight earnings are short by about Rs 850 cr, the decrease in passenger revenue is about Rs 4000 cr. While the working expenses have gone up by about Rs 5,000 crore during April-December period, the revenue earnings have decreased by over Rs 4,000 crore.
With this not-so-rosy picture, rail minister Mallikarjun Kharge is all set to present his first and UPAII’s last interim budget in the parliament today. Having general elections in sight, Kharge is expected to present a rail budget which will not only provide some solution to the woes of the public carrier, he is also expected to take some populist measures without harming the existing projects. Here are 20 things which we all should expect from him:
- Faced with revenue shortfall, this seems to be the last thing which Kharge will do. But he may try something with fuel adjustment component so that the impact on fares is low in an election year.
- He is likely to announce 20 premier trains with dynamic fare in order to arrest the fall in passenger revenue.
- Kharge will announce electrification of more routes so that the expense on diesel in minimum. It is another reason for railways running in losses. Railways are likely to take up about 1500 km route for electrification in the next fiscal. Currently, only about 24,000 km is electrified out of the total 65,000 km route.
- The same old talk regarding progress of railways in last decade under UPA and announcements regarding survey of new lines, increase in the frequency of trains and extension of routes will be likely features.
- Kharge may mention the expeditious work on coaching complex for maintenance facility at Gulberga. He may also mention the speedy work on dedicated freight corridor and work sanction on the 66km long Mugalsarai and Sonnagar ling as part of the mega project front.
- The minister is likely to address the issue of recent fire mishaps in trains. He may roll out anti-fire measures.
- Kharge is also expected to list passenger friendly measures such as installation of upgraded real-time train information system at stations and operation of automatic ticket vending machines at many stations. But he is likely to refrain from any major populist measure given the financial condition of the railways.
In all it is expected to be a balanced and growth-oriented budget. Kharge has already taken many bold steps to increase the revenue. The measures included allowing fuel adjustment component in passenger and freight fares, increase in Duronto fares and revising Rajdhani catering charges. He had also allowed dynamic fares in special trains to encash the increased demand of berths in Delhi-Mumbai sector as a pilot project.