The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
On The Railway Budget
The Union railway budget for 2000-2001 proposes to impose a Rs. 600 crore burden through increase freight rates. While there is an average increase of 5 per cent in the rates of all commodities, there is a much steeper increase in the rates on chemical fertilisers ranging from 12 per cent to 48 per cent. This is an anti-farmer move. The increase in freight rates will nullify any effort to expand freight carried by the railways which is essential for augmenting railway earnings. The increase in the freight charges will only contribute to fuelling a general price rise in all commodities.
The railway budget has made it amply clear that there will hardly be any development in the railway sector. The annual plan outlay for the coming year of Rs. 11 thousand crores is dependent on market borrowings to the tune of Rs. 3668 crores. It is guaranteed that there will be a slash in the plan expenditure given the shortage of resources. In the current year Rs 735 crores has been slashed from the original plan outlay. This will be to the detriment of improving the safety standards on the railways which is a cause for major concern in view of the continuing high rate of railway accidents.
While the budget does not propose any increase in passenger fares it hopes to generate additional resources by commercial utilisation of railway assets like land and other resources. This alongwith privatisation measures is the basis for the hope for additional resource mobilisation which will prove a chimera. The deteriorating amenities for passengers and lack of safety measures cannot be reversed by the proposals presented in the budget.
With the growing gap between development plans and shrinking resources due to the cut-backs imposed by liberalisation, the railways which is a vital sector, is heading for a crisis.