Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Saturday, February 26, 2000

Front Page | National | International | Regional | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous | Classified | Employment | Features | Employment | Index | Home

National | Previous | Next

Railways' new vision for the millennium

The following are the excerpts from the speech of Ms. Mamata Banerjee while introducing the Railway Budget for 2000-01 on February 25, 2000.

Mr. Speaker, Sir,

I rise to present the Budget Estimates for the year 2000-2001 for the Indian Railways.

The growth of the Railways since inception has directly contributed to the economic and social development of the nation. Indian Railways having a route length of over 62,800 km, are the second largest Railway undertaking in the world under a single management. With 16 lakh employees running 8000 passenger trains and 5500 goods trains every day, moving 1.36 cr passengers and 12 lakh tonnes of goods daily, the Railways are truly called the `lifeline of the nation'. However, today Railways are at a turning point in their history. There is the opportunity to reach new heights of performance as well as the chance of a dangerous decline.

Today, on 25th February 2000, the network has a length of 62,800 route kilometers. Sir, in 53 years, independent India has added less than one fourth of what was built in ninetyfour years of the colonial rule.

The time has now come, Sir, when Railways have to develop a vision for the new millennium. In this short span of four months, we have worked together to develop this vision which transcends the concerns of the short term. I will, in the course of my speech,outline this vision in each area of our operation.

Review of financial performance during 1998-99

Sir, 1998-99 has been an extremely difficult year for the Railways. Government's decision on the Fifth Central Pay Commission's recommendations was implemented in that year and in the previous year, raising expenditure on staff and pension. The year ended with a draw-down from the Railway Fund balances to the tune of Rs. 2,313 cr instead of Rs. 1,313 cr as given in the Revised Estimate. In view of the shortfall in internal resources, the plan expenditure was restricted to Rs. 8,857 cr from the budgeted level of Rs. 9,500 cr. Market borrowings, however, increased from Rs. 2,900 cr in the Budget Estimates to Rs. 3217 cr.

Review of financial performance during the current year

Sir, I am happy to inform the House that with overall economic recovery, we are set to achieve our freight loading target of 450 million tonnes. However, the freight earnings are likely to fall short of target by Rs. 250 cr due to drop in lead and change in commodity mix. On the other hand, there has been an impressive growth in Passenger earnings which reached about Rs. 7,800 cr by end of January 2000.

Sir, when I joined office, a very difficult financial situation awaited me. I felt, in the words of Tagore - ``I start on my journey, with empty hands and expectant heart''. In order to overcome these financial reverses, I had decided, immediately on assuming office, to put in place a stringent action plan for reduction in expenditure through economy and other austerity measures. I am happy to inform the House that all these measures have borne substantial gains of approximately Rs. 850 cr for us and have helped Railways in absorbing the additional requirements within the existing grant, with only a small increase of Rs. 50 cr. Accordingly, the Ordinary Working Expenses projected at Rs. 25,740 cr in Budget Estimates 1999-2000 are now placed at Rs. 25,790 cr.

Sir, you are well aware that India has been making rapid strides in information and communication technologies. Indeed, our Prime Minister has taken an inspiring lead and has defined I.T. as 'India's Tomorrow'. Keeping in line with this vision, Mr. Speaker, Sir, Railways have decided to utilise its Right of Way (ROW) covering 62,800 km passing through more than 7,000 stations, for building a nation-wide broad band telecom and multimedia network by laying optic fibre cable (OFC).

Safety

Sir, some of the special steps, being taken by the Railways to strengthen safety include provision of walkie-talkie sets to drivers and guards, track circuiting to prevent accidents due to human failure, improved communication between driver, guard and nearest station through mobile train radio system, block-proving by axle counters, replacing existing mechanical signalling systems with modern signalling systems such as Colour Light Signalling, Panel Interlocking, Solid State Interlocking and Route Relay Interlocking. Simultaneously, an intensive training and human resource development programme specifically targeted towards enhancing safety consciousness amongst front-line operational staff has also been launched.

Sir, I am happy to announce that Konkan Railway Corporation has developed a new anti-collision safety device.

Manning the large number of unmanned level crossings and constructing road overbridges/underbridges requires enormous resources. I appeal to Hon'ble Members for recommending conversion of unmanned level crossings to manned level crossings under ``Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLAD)'' to supplement our efforts in this direction.

Track renewal

Sir, I propose to substantially enhance the outlay on track renewal taking it to Rs. 2000 cr in the next year's budget, marking an increase of about 37 per cent over the revised outlay in the current year.

Freight policy

Sir, the other great concern of the Indian Railways is to arrest the slippage of market share and improve it. My objective is to raise the share of traffic to 50% during the first decade of the new millennium from the existing 40%. I am convinced that to achieve this, we should not only have a substantial and time- bound augmentation of the line and terminal capacity on the saturated 'High-Density Network', but a multi- pronged new Freight Policy.

Sir, in the 50th Year of the Republic, in order to commemorate three of the important places which are prominently associated with the freedom struggle, namely Ballia, Tamluk and Satara, additional connectivity is being provided by introducing the Jodhpur Bangalore Express, Ajmer-Bangalore Express, Howrah-Digha Express (to be introduced upon completion of new line construction between Tamluk and Digha) and Lucknow-Ballia- Chhapra Express.

Sir, I am also happy to announce that I am going to fulfil the commitment made by my predecessor in the last budget regarding starting a new express train from Nizamuddin to Coimbatore (weekly). This train will start operations in the month of March 2000. This could not be started earlier due to certain operational difficulties.

Increase in frequency

8563/8564 Vishakapatnam- Bangalore Express: from 4 days to daily

2951/2952 Mumbai Rajdhani Express: from 6 days to daily

2953/2954 August Kranti Rajdhani Express: from 6 days to daily

1029/1030 Pune Howrah Azad Hind Express: from 2 days to 3 days a week

9263/9264 Porbandar - Delhi Sarai Rohilla Express: from weekly to Bi-weekly.

Extension, connection, augmentation

6635/6636 Kurla-Ernakulam Netravati Express To Thiruvananthapuram

(Also augmentation to 22 coaches thereby increasing 280 berth capacity daily)

5011/5012 Gorakhpur-Cochin Raptisagar Express to Thiruvananthapuram.

7057/7058 Bilaspur-Cochin Express to Thiruvananthapuram.

7081/7082 Indore-Cochin Express to Thiruvananthapuram.

6731/6732 Bangalore-Madurai Express to Tuticorin.

3287A/88A Patna-Rourkela Link Express to Bilaspur.

6333/6334 Thiruvananthapuram-Rajkot Express to Hapa.

6803/04 Howrah-Tiruchi Express to Kanniyakumari (on one day in a week).

1095/96 Pune-Ahmedabad Ahimsa Express to Gandhidham (on one day in a week).

2475/2476 Jammu Tawi-Rajkot Express to Hapa.

1269/1270 Rajkot-Bhopal Express to Jabalpur (on two days in a week)

Sir, I am happy to announce that I propose to fulfil another commitment made by my predecessor regarding extension of 5207/5208 Amritsar-Barauni Express up to Katihar and 3163/3164 Sealdah-Katihar Express up to Barauni. Both these extensions will begin in the month of March.

New services/extensions to be introduced upon completion of gauge conversion and new lines

* Extension of 9031/32 Mumbai Central-Gandhidham Kutch Express to Bhuj

* One pair of passenger service between Gandhidham and Bhuj

* Extension of Rail bus services between Nadiad and Kapadvanj to Modasa

* One pair of passenger services on Peddapalli-Karimnagar section

MEMU services

* Patna-Mokama section.

* Shalimar-Bankura section.

* Chennai-Arakkonam-Renigunta section.

* Lucknow-Kanpur section.

* Srikakulam-Vishakhapatnam section.

* Katpadi-Jolarpettai section.

DMU services

* Amritsar-Pathankot section

* Raichur-Gulbarga section

* Erode-Tiruchi section

Sir, I am happy to inform the House that for the first time in the history of Indian Railways, an All India Summer Special Train Time-Table is being released today.

A new `Palace on Wheels' type of train is also proposed to be introduced on a route from Mumbai-Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg-Goa- Kolhapur-Pune- Ajanta Ellora-Nasik to Mumbai. This will be a joint effort between Railways and the Government of Maharashtra.

Metropolitan transport projects

The extension of Calcutta Metro Railway from Tollygunge to Garia which was started last year is being given further fillip with increased allocation of funds to complete it early. I would request the State Government of West Bengal to provide its share of the cost so that the work can be expedited for the benefit of the people of Calcutta.Hon'ble members will be happy to know that the work of Phase II of Mass Rapid Transit System in Chennai from Tirumailai to Velacheri is progressing at a rapid pace towards completion within the targeted date of March 2002. Gauge Conversion of Chennai Beach- Tambaram- Chengalpattu suburban section has also received necessary approvals and the work has started.

Annual Plan 2000-01

Sir, with all the resource constraints, we have been able to keep the Plan outlay for 2000-01 at Rs. 11,000 cr, constituting an increase of about 23 per cent over the revised plan outlay of Rs. 8,965 cr for the current year. Capital support from the General Exchequer at Rs. 3,540 cr is around 40 per cent higher than last year, an increase which is quite unprecedented in recent years. It is proposed to go in for market borrowings to the extent of Rs. 3,668 cr. The balance Rs. 3,792 cr is being met through a combination of normal internal resources, non-traditional sources of revenue and contribution from General Revenues for Railway Safety Works.

New lines

Sir, the House will be happy to know that I have substantially stepped up the investment in New Lines next year. From a level of Rs. 514 cr in the Revised Estimates this year, the outlay has been increased to Rs.. 825 cr or 61 per cent over the current year's revised estimate with an aim to accelerate progress of pending projects, particularly some very old projects which are over a decade old. This is also to provide adequately for new lines in the frontier areas of Jammu & Kashmir and Northeast region.

During the year 2000-01, Railways plan to complete the gauge conversion of the following sections:

- Nonera-Bhind of Guna-Etawah project

- Raxaul-Birganj

- Makum-Dangri

- Amguri-Tuli

- Laxmanthirtha bridge diversion on Mysore- Hassan line

- Mudkhed-Adilabad (BOLT)

- Wankaner-Morbi

- Gandhidham-Bhuj

- Darangdhara-Kuda

Doubling

During the current year, 220 km of doubling would be completed, while in the next financial year a target of 300 km has been kept.

Surveys

On the basis of requests received from the Hon'ble members and State Governments, I have decided to take up several surveys during the next financial year.

Railway electrification

For Ninth Five Year Plan, Railways had planned electrification of 2,300 route km. Of this, 1062 route km have been electrified during the first two years. In the current year, electrification of 435 route km is envisaged and in the coming one year 500 route km. are proposed to be electrified. The following projects are targeted to be completed before March 2000.

* Erode-Ernakulam

* Adra-Midnapur

* Kanpur-Lucknow

Budget Estimates 2000-01

Sir, I shall now deal with the Budget Estimates for 2000-01.

There has been considerable increase in the input costs of the Railways and the recent hike in the price of diesel has put an additional burden on its finances. Some upward rationalisation of the freight rates has thus become unavoidable. I propose the following rationalisation in the tariff and classifications of certain commodities during the next year.

* There will be no increase in the freight rates for essential commodities like Foodgrains, Sugar, Edible salt, Edible oils, Kerosene, LPG, Fruits and vegetables.

* Sir, by insulating these essential commodities, I want to ensure that there is no additional burden on the common man.

* There will be a general increase of 5% in the rates of all commodities except those mentioned above.

* Keeping in view the need to encourage higher industrial growth, I do not want to overburden certain commodities in the core sector. Therefore, I propose to contain the increase in rates of some commodities to less than 5% by downgrading the classifications, as detailed in the Memorandum. The commodities are coal (not meant for household consumption), iron and steel (Division A/B/C), cement, iron ore, limestone and dolomite and certain petroleum products.

* Railways have been charging concessional tariff for Chemical Manures in the past, despite the fact that the prices are administered by the Government. I propose to correct this distortion by upgrading the classifications suitably as explained in the Memorandum. Urea will, however, be exempted from the increase altogether. Similarly, freight charges for Livestock and Oilseeds would also be raised appropriately to make their haulage financially more viable. The revised classifications are mentioned in the Memorandum. The average increase in the freight rates in these commodities would be more than the normal increase of 5%.

* Sir, I, propose an increase of 7% in the scale rates of Parcel and Luggage including Motor Car rates. Rates for newspaper, magazine and medicine will, however, be exempted from this increase and existing rates will continue without any change.

The above proposals for adjustment in tariff for Freight, Parcel and Luggage is estimated to generate Rs. 600 cr per annum. The above changes in rates and classifications will be effective from 1st April 2000.

Sir, I am happy to announce the following concessions, in addition to continuation of the concessional MST scheme meant for people below the poverty line, which was approved by the House at the time of Supplementary Demands for Grants in December 1999:

* To commemorate the 50th year of Indian Republic, all the freedom fighters will be given a millennium gift for travel of one journey by Rajdhani or Shatabdi train of choice from any station to any destination and back. This will be valid for millennium year only.

* A Millenium Card at a cost of Rs. 10,000/- valid for one year will be issued to any passenger to give him assured reservation in First AC and Second AC Classes on any train on Indian railways throughout the year.

* The free travel facility for students up to Class-X announced by me while presenting the Supplementary Demands for Grants in December last will be further extended to cover girl students up to Class-XII for their travel from home to school/college and back.

* The widows of the martyrs of 'Operation Vijay' in 1999 in Kargil will be entitled to 75% travel concession in second class and sleeper class.

Sir, with regard to passenger fares, there is a general feeling that in many respects passengers do not get the quality of service from the Indian Railways. As I mentioned earlier, despite serious financial constraints, I have been able to propose an increased outlay on passenger amenities which is 54% higher than the current year's Revised Estimate. Sir, I am committed to increasing passenger amenities on trains and on platforms. Enhancing the satisfaction levels of passengers towards the services is a very important priority for me and I would like to witness definite improvement. Meanwhile, I do not wish to burden the passengers. Therefore, Sir, I am not proposing any revision of passenger fare of any class.

Conclusion

In the end, I wish to express my gratitude to Respected Prime Minister for his encouragement and support. My sincere thanks are also due to all the railwaymen for their hard work and dedication to duty, which has helped railways in achieving their task successfully. I am also thankful to the rail users whose cooperation we have always been getting. I am confident that in the year to come they will continue to cooperate and will also enrich our efforts by giving constructive suggestions for bringing overall improvements in railway functioning.

Send this article to Friends by E-Mail


Section  : National
Previous : A continuing struggle for our rights: Farooq
Next     : Rlys. spent 49 p.c. earnings on staff costs

Front Page | National | International | Regional | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous | Classified | Employment | Features | Employment | Index | Home

Copyright © 2000 The Hindu

Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu