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Lalu to present rail budget in Hindi

Agencies | July 06, 2004 10:56 IST

Amidst the planned Opposition boycott on the issue of 'tainted' ministers, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav plans to go ahead with his maiden budget, which is expected to be pro-poor with no increase in second class suburban and passenger fares and freight charges.

However, Rail Bhavan sources said that the upper class fares are likely to be marginally increased in the 2004-05 Railway Budget to meet the ever-increasing fuel costs even while ensuring they do not become uncompetitive.

The railway minister will present his maiden railway budget in Hindi, like former railway ministers Nitish Kumar and Kamlapati Tripathi.

The railway minister said he has already given final touches to his maiden rail budget and appealed to MPs of all the political parties to hear him and give their suggestions.

With most of the high-density railway lines over saturated, it is unlikely Yadav will not introduce many new trains, a popular measure that is adopted in most of the railway budgets to fulfil regional aspirations.

The railway minister said recently: "I will present and read the Rail Budget whether any one listens to it or not. I am not bothered, nor will I take notice of those threaten who are threatening to boycott the Rail Budget."

The hike in the prices of diesel itself had put a burden of over Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) on the railways, the sources said adding ordinary passenger fares offered little room for an increase which would have to be borne by a marginal rise in upper class fares.

The marginal hike in upper class fares is not expected to be more than 5 per cent, the sources said adding there might be rationalisation of tariffs for air-conditioned class keeping in mind seasonal rise and fall of occupancy rate in long distance trains.

Sources cited the example of reduction of fares by 10 per cent from July 15 to September 15 last year by the then railway minister Nitish Kumar in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Janshatabdi Express trains in order to increase the occupancy, which they claimed was a 'runaway success.'

This 'flexi-tariff' may also be extended to air-conditioned class for long distance mail and express trains in order to push the revenue from passenger front upwards, they said.

The sources indicated some new long distance trains and unreserved trains might be introduced to enable labourers from labour-intensive areas to travel to growth centres like Punjab, Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore and Ahmedabad.

Efforts would also be made to introduce, at least on weekly basis, the 17 Sampark Kranti Express trains, which were announced by the previous National Democratic Alliance government.

The sources said special emphasis would be laid on lifting commodities like coal, steel, iron ore, cement and POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) in order to increase revenue.

They pointed out that though the freight lifted by the railways had surpassed the target, the revenue earned through them was only marginal because of low-rated commodities.

There are indications that budgetary support from the finance ministry is likely to go up by Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) in keeping with the commitment made by the United Progressive Alliance government in its common minimum programme of more and more public investment in infrastructure segments like railways and road transport to reach out to people in remote and other backward areas.

The Railway Minister is also most likely to look at the performance of the public sector units attached with the railways and might announce dismantling of those units whose performance is not up to the mark. Railways have nine public sector units attached to them.

Safety aspect is likely to get top priority in view of the recent train mishaps, robberies and other such incidents. The corporate safety plan, introduced by the previous government, would be implemented in letter and spirit.

The minister is also likely to unfold a programme for viable commercial utilisation of unutilised railway land to mobilise additional resources.

The ministry already had in its possession a report of the parliamentary sub-committee which had recommended commercial utilisation of unutilised railway land. It had envisaged earnings to the tune of Rs 36,000 crore (Rs 360 billion) by way of utilisation of surplus land with the railways.

The budget might also envisage construction of 100 budget hotels at various places.

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