For the first time in the history of India, there was no separate Railway budget presented in the parliament as the Modi government put an end to the 92 year old legacy and merged it with the union budget. With Railways being the lifeline of India, everyone in the country has close association with the railways as it directly impacts the lives of hundreds of millions of people. As per the budget, capital expenditure of Indian Railways in this year is pegged at 1.31 lakh crore, which is the highest ever in the history of India. It will be worthwhile to know what Indian Railways got in the budget and what is there in store for the passengers.
- Capital expenditure of Indian Railways in the financial year 2017-18 is pegged at a massive Rs 1.31 lakh crore, which is the highest ever in history of India. While the finance ministry will give Rs 55,000 crore, the rest will be from the internal revenue generated by Indian Railways (Rs 14,000) and money raised via methods such as Public Private Partnerships, LIC (Rs 18,000 crore) and Indian Railways Finance Corporation (Rs 22,000 crore).
- The massive capital expenditure is aimed at expanding and upgrading the current infrastructure, providing safety and security to the passengers, and modernization of the rolling stock.
- Finance minister Arun Jaitley proposed the creation of a rail safety fund, Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore over five years. It will draw 75% of the funds from the finance ministry while railways will raise the rest on its own. The finance ministry has already given Rs 15,000 crore to the fund.
- In India, there are about 13,000 unmanned level crossings which account for more than half of the deaths caused on tracks. One of the key highlights of the budget was elimination of all unmanned level crossings on broad gauge by 2020. Underpasses or flyovers will replace the crossings at busy intersections.
- In a major step towards clean India, and putting an end to open defecation, Shri Arun Jaitley announced that all the coaches running in Indian Railways network will be fitted with bio-toilets so that there is no defecation on the tracks.
- In a massive step towards expansion of railway network in the country, 3500 km of new railway lines will be commissioned in the year 2017, up from 2600 km of railway lines commissioned last year.
- Modernization and redevelopment of 25 major railway stations with high passenger handling will be initiated in the financial year 2017-18. Under the station redevelopment plan, malls, hotels, shopping centres and other facilities are expected to come up on the station premises.
- As per the budget, ‘Coach Mitra’, a single-window interface to register all coach-related complaints and requirements, will be launched.
- In India, the biggest problem is faced by the differently abled, who do not have convenient access to the railway stations and platforms due to absence of ramps, elevators and escalators. In a bid to make stations easily accessible and friendly to the differently abled, 500 major stations to have lifts and escalators.
- Rather than launching of new projects to appease the people, focus has been given to complete the ongoing projects which have been on paper or incomplete (many of them since decades). These projects include construction of dedicated freight corridors, upgrading signalling & technology, redeveloping stations, improving passenger amenities, modernization of rolling stock, improving connectivity in Kashmir and the Northeast, and construction/doubling/tripling of critical freight lines near mines, ports and industries.
The days of populist announcements are over. The budget by Modi government has set its priority right – improving the health of railways, expansion & modernization of railways, and improving passenger amenities.