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Lalu spares everyone, no fare hike
July 06, 2004 12:07 IST
Last Updated: July 06, 2004 15:35 IST
In a populist budget for 2004-05, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav on Tuesday spared passengers of all classes from any increase in fares and the industry from freight rates while making adjustments in parcel rates to net an additional Rs 50 crore as he announced introduction of 15 new express trains.
The budget contained a baggage of concessions including free second class travel for unemployed youths for central government job interviews and 75 per cent discount in fares in second and sleeper classes to widows of defence personnel killed in action against terrorists and extremists.
Escorts accompanying a deaf and dumb person will get a 50 per cent concession in fares in first, second, sleeper classes and in season tickets while it will be 75 per cent for severe and moderate haemophilia patients travelling for treatment in second, sleeper class, first class, ac chair-car and A/C 3-tier classes.
Spouse of licensed coolie porters will also enjoy one set of privilege pass to travel to any station from the station of working.
Presenting his maiden budget in the Lok Sabha amidst an opposition boycott, Prasad said the 15 new trains, including four that will touch his home state Bihar, will be apart from 17 Sampark Kranti Express trains announced in the interim budget for introduction in the current year by his predecessor Nitish Kumar.
The total plan outlay for the current year has been fixed at Rs 14,498 crore including Rs 2,933 crore through special railway safety fund and Rs 300 crore separate allotment from the general exchequer for the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla national project.
Giving budget estimates for 2004-05, the minister fixed a loading target of 580 million tonne, 10 million tonne higher than the interim budget target and placed freight earnings at Rs 28,745 crore, showing an increase of Rs 645 crore over the interim budget.
Passenger earnings have been revised downwards from Rs 14,200 crore in the interim budget to Rs 13,940 crore based on trend. Other coaching earnings have been pegged higher at Rs 1,040 crore from Rs 990 crore in the interim budget taking into account the proposed re-classification of parcel rates.
The target for sundry other earnings have been placed at Rs 1,072 crore and the gross traffic receipts are pegged at Rs 44,902 crore, which is Rs 420 crore higher than the interim budget.
Ordinary working expenses at Rs 32,960 crore in the interim budget have been scaled down by Rs 100 crore.
Prasad said the post interim budget factors like merger of 50 per cent DA with basic pay and increase in diesel price will be absorbed by stringent measures for expenditure control and zero-base budgeting.
Prasad said the appropriation to depreciation reserve fund has been stepped up from Rs 1,900 crore in the interim budget to Rs 2,267 crore. Appropriation to pension fund from revenue has been kept at Rs 6,290 crore.
The total working expenses have been budgeted at Rs 41,417 crore and the net traffic receipt at Rs 4,478 crore as against Rs 4,425 crore in the interim budget. The current dividend of Rs 3,305 crore and Rs 300 crore towards the deferred dividend liability will be paid, he said.
The minister said priority will be given to development and expansion of railway infrastructure as mentioned in the common minimum programme of the United Progressive Alliance.
Modernisation of railways, replacement and renewal of assets, particularly track renewal, safety of passengers, cleanliness, improvement in passenger amenities, control over expenditure and prevention of leakage of revenue will be the thrust areas, he said.
Reviewing the performance in 2003-04, Prasad said the loading target exceeded by 7.39 million tonne.
Passenger traffic in the previous year registered a growth of three per cent and the operating ratio as per approximate actuals stood at 92.1 per cent as against 94.1 per cent budgeted. The plan expenditure is expected to be around Rs 13,311 crore.
Giving details of safety measures proposed, Prasad said over 1,280 unmanned level crossings are planned to be manned over a period of time. Introduction of block proving by axle counters, train protection and warning system and provision of anti-collision device are other measures planned.
For enhancing safety, prohibition on transportation of explosives and inflammable material will be enforced and an institute of rescue and medical relief will be set up at Bangalore with training modules on disaster management, he said.
He said the railway protection force (RPF) has been given additional responsibilities for escorting passenger trains from this month while skills of existing RPF personnel have been upgraded.
The direct recruitment of RFP personnel has been reverted from the railway recruitment boards to security department.
As part of information technology measures, the material management information system has been extended and a pilot project on e-procurement will be introduced. Claim offices are being computerised and unreserved ticketing and passenger reservation system were being extended, he said.