February 26, 2015
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
On the 2015-16 Railway Budget
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.
Though the Railway Minister asserted that Indian Railways will continue to remain an asset of the people but the extent to which he wanted to raise resources for critical infrastructure through the PPP, BOT etc raises serious questions. The budgetary allocations for extending railways to backward and far flung areas and greater access for the poorer sections are totally inadequate. The railways will henceforth, only, prioritise the unfinished projects. Thus, its social objectives will remain unaddressed. The Railway Minister’s claim of a reversal of decline with the vision he spelt out hardly inspires any confidence.
The traffic growth has declined and expenditures outstrip according to revised estimates. There are 4.6 crores less originating passengers. The passenger earnings were short by Rs. 968 crores proving earlier fare hikes to be counterproductive. Given this, there should not be any euphoria over passenger fares not being raised. The gross traffic receipts were Rs. 492 crores as compared to the revised estimates. The railways success in generating internal resources for plan finances also falls short. Most importantly, the operating ratio was 2.7 per cent less, only on account of reduction in the international crude oil prices and not due to the railways internal efficiency improvement.
So far as the future is concerned, the operating ratio outlook is not bright. Promises on improving safety sounds hollow low allocation of Rs. 2200 crores for the railway safety fund. The allocation on rolling stocks has also declined.
Finally, the budget has proposed no further freight hikes as Indian freight rates remain highest in the world and as a result the railway minister has also admitted the continuous decline in the share of the railways in freight traffic.
In sum, this Railway Budget is not going to result in achhe din for the poor, though the Railway Minister quoted the PM saying that the railways will be an instrument for `eliminating poverty’.