26Feb

Rail Budget 2015-16 India Update : Pledge to re-invigorate Railways, says Suresh Prabhu

Railway Budget has focussed on issues like safety, increasing quota for senior citizens, said minister Suresh Prabhu.

In a post-Budget interaction with the media, Prabhu said a sum of Rs 6,581 crore has been approved to remove around 3,500 level-crossings. He said the ministry has rationalised freight rates in terms of classification.

Stating that Railways cannot depend on sole source of gross budgetary support, Prabhu said the government is looking at various options to raise money. “A large government organisation has committed Rs 20,000-crore investment in Railways, besides we are also in talks with the World Bank for funding.

26Feb

Rail Budget 2015-16 India Update : Rail Budget lacks vision, road map to execute ideas: Cong

Opposition on Thursday attacked the first full-fledged Railway Budget of the BJP-led NDA government saying it lacked vision and road map to execute the “nice ideas it is full of”. Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and TMC’s Dinesh Trivedi, both of whom are also former Railway Ministers, slammed the Budget for lacking in substance and merely “weaving dreams”.

“It’s a nicely-worded Budget speech. But there is no vision as to how he is going to achieve goals. The minister says he will get into PPP model, BoT agreements, etc. If you depend on others, you are unlikely to meet your targets,” Kharge told reporters outside Parliament. Trivedi, who has at times gone against his party’s line in praising the government, was also disdainful for the Budget, saying it has woven a dream for people but lacks plan to fulfil it.

“It’s like saying I will go to moon. It’s an idea, a dream but what is important is how are you going to reach there. It’s all about future but your finances presently suffer from almost 50 per cent shortfall. How are you going to meet the gap,” he told reporters. Trivedi, who was Railway Minister in UPA government and had to quit due to his party’s opposition to his reform measures, went on to say that it was not a Budget but just an idea.

“I see Railways going the Air India way. Its coffers are empty,” he said. Senior BJD leader Tathagata Satpathy also attacked the Railway Budget, calling it hollow and disappointing. He said he would give only 2 out 10 points to it. “It’s completely hollow. He (Prabhu) spoke of an idea but that idea has not been enunciated, meaning not much thought has gone behind it,” he told PTI. Kharge also criticised Prabhu’s decision to not announce new trains, saying development is not static like stagnant water.

26Feb

Rail Budget 2015-16 India Update : Faster rail network growth in J&K, commits Prabhu

There would be faster rail network growth in Jammu and Kashmir and connectivity provided to all the Northeastern states, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Thursday. “Indian Railways is committed for faster rail network in Jammu and Kashmir.

The rail connectivity between Jammu region and the Kashmir valley through the Banihal tunnel provides all-weather connectivity with the rest of the country,” he said in his Budget address.

Prabhu said the commissioning of Udhampur-Katra was “like a dream come true for millions of pilgrims”. He also said the Railways was “committed to provide rail connectivity to all the Northeastern States” and announced that Meghalaya has been brought on the railway map of India, while direct connectivity to Delhi has been provided to Arunachal Pradesh.

Further, the Barak Valley of Assam would be brought on the broad gauge in March this year. “The work for connecting the remaining states of this (Northeastern) region is progressing well,” the Minister said.

26Feb

Rail Budget 2015-16 India Update : Suresh Prabhu’s Speech (PART 12)

Rail Budget

Mr. Suresh Prabhu’s Speech Continues…

K. Transparency and Governance initiatives

113. As the Hon’ble Members of the House are aware, Indian Railways recruits various categories of employees through its 21 recruitment boards. As a major transparency initiative, the system of on-line applications has been introduced for two categories as a pilot project. It is proposed to extend this further to include all future recruitments.

114. Corruption at all levels continues to affect the common man. We will explore all possible solutions to address this menace.

115. In order to provide a thrust to transparency, eprocurement value chain is being expanded to cover all Divisions, Depots and Workshops.

116. Indian Railways currently is the only rail-based trans-city infrastructure provider and operator in the country. Therefore, for the purpose of orderly development of infrastructure services, enabling competition and protection of customer interests, it is important to have a regulation mechanism independent of the service provider. Initially it was contemplated to set up only a Tariff Regulator, however, it is now proposed to set up a mechanism, which will be entrusted with making regulations, setting performance standards and determining tariffs. It will also adjudicate on disputes among licensees/private partners and the Ministry, subject to review in appeal.

117. Even as we pursue this transformation agenda, Indian Railways will continue to honour its wider obligations to the nation. With this in mind and in keeping with our Government’s high priority on skill development, Indian Railways, with its vast spread, will contribute by making available its infrastructure like stations and training centres for skill development. Indian Railways has a huge talent of skilled personnel and their services are also available for this national cause.

118. To encourage self-employment, we will promote products made by Self Help Groups, consisting mainly of women and youth. Konkan Railway (KR) has already launched this programme in three states during the past three months. KR expects to generate employment for approximately 50,000 persons from this scheme in the next few years.

119. Tourism holds a great potential for job creation and economic development of a region. Indian Railways will join this effort Incredible Rail for Incredible India. We have successfully experimented on Konkan Railway tourism promotion through training of auto-rickshaw and taxioperators as tourist-guides since they are the first point of contact for our passengers. We intend replicating this at major tourist stations.

120. We propose to explore the possibility of offering some coaches in select trains connecting major tourist destinations to travel agencies on a revenue sharing model.

121. Madam Speaker, I have the honour to recall that this year we are celebrating 100 years of the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India. IRCTC will work on promoting the Gandhi circuit to attract tourists to mark this occasion. To help farmers to learn about new farming and marketing techniques, IRCTC will work on Kisan Yatra, a special travel scheme.

122. The Financial Performance for 2014-15 and Budget Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure for 2015-16 are at Annex II.

123. At present, due to over-utilised line capacity and backlog in track renewals, there are speed restrictions, which lead to delay in running more number of trains. The review will be completed soon so that we can announce new trains and increased frequency in this session.

124. Madam Speaker, the actions in the eleven thrust areas, which I have described, cannot remain mere policy pronouncements. Railways cannot function in a ‘Business As Usual’ mode. We have to gear up to face future challenges. Madam, I will ensure that Indian Railways delivers quantifiable and visible improvements. Our most critical initiatives will be pursued in mission mode under the direct oversight of designated senior officials in the Ministry of Railways as Mission Directors. A similar structure will be replicated in all Zonal Railways. I will personally monitor on all major thrust areas. I am confident that I have the support of 13 lakh dedicated men and women in this endeavour.

125. Swami Vivekanand once said, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

He Ended the Speech with following words

For me, that idea is the transformation of Indian Railways. We can, and will, turn the Railways around. We will fulfil the Prime Minister’s vision for the Railways. We seek the support of all of you in this national endeavour which holds the key to the transformation of India itself into Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat. With these words, Madam Speaker, I commend the Railway Budget for 2015-16 to the August House.

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