The decision by the Union Cabinet to merge the Railway Budget with the General Budget is a unilateral step without discussion in parliament. It was parliament which was empowered to discuss railway finances and development.
The Rail Budget for the year 2015-16 was high on hyperbole but low on content. In fact, it has spelt out certain intentions with scarce factual details to translate these ideas into reality. During the first three years of the 12th Five Year Plan, the railways received only Rs. 1.5 lakh crores for investment. Yet, the Railway Minister bombastically promised that in the coming five years, this will increase to Rs. 8.56 lakh crores.
The railway budget has added more burdens on the people traveling in trains. The railway minister has made the false claim that railway fares are not being increased. After increasing passenger fares by 20 per cent just two months before the railway budget, the present budget provisions will definitely increase the fares further.
The drama of the resignation of Dinesh Trivedi as Railway Minister after the presentation of the Railway Budget reflects badly on the Trinamul Congress and the functioning of the UPA government. What is of least concern for the TMC leader, who was herself the railway minister ten months ago, is the perilous state of the railways which is in a financial mess and where safety aspects are being neglected.
The Railway Minister is imposing these burdens on the people in order to cover up for his own inefficiencies, which has led to the bankruptcy of the Indian Railways. The railway budget making exercise has suffered from a steady erosion of credibility over the past few years, with budgetary targets going haywire in the course of the year. The Operating Ratio of the Railways (how much is spent in order to earn 100 rupees) for 2011-12 was budgeted at 91.1% last year. Now it has gone up to 95%, exposing the massive inefficiency of the Railways.
The CPI (M) considers the Railway Budget presented in parliament today as a fraudulent exercise aimed at window dressing the pathetic state of Railway finances and announcing sundry projects, which will never take off the ground. The Railways is actually facing a financial crisis. There is no increase in freight earnings this year despite the GDP growing at over 8%.