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Tuesday, February 27, 2001

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`Wagon industry will get a shot in the arm'


Annual Plan 2001-02

Sir, when I sat down to compile budget estimates for 2001-02, I was certain that there will be some growth in the Budgetary Support from the General Exchequer. I was also hopeful that to tide over the safety-related requirements, a separate grant would b e available. However, none of these materialised. But, Sir, I am happy to announce that even with all these constraints, we have been able to keep the Plan outlay for 2001-02 at Rs 11,090 crore, which is 11 per cent higher than the revised estimates of t he current year.

Capital support from the General Exchequer continues to be Rs 3,540 crore, as in the current year. It is proposed to go in for market borrowings to the extent of Rs 4,000 crore. The balance of Rs 3,550 crore is being met through a combination of conventi onal sources and non-traditional sources of revenue. We are also relying on clearance of a portion of the Railways dues from powerhouses. Traffic outstandings, a large part of which is powerhouse dues have touched a new high of Rs 3,027 crore as on Decem ber 31, 2000. The target set for clearance in the coming year is Rs 750 crore. As part of this, we expect that the outstanding dues of at least Rs 500 crore from Badarpur Thermal Power Station would be realised by us in the next year, as promised by the then Power Minister last year.

Sir, in the current year, we had received a budgetary support of Rs 3,540 crore which was about Rs 1,000 crore higher than 1999-2000. Simultaneously, Government had also agreed for a dividend deferment of Rs 1,500 crore, so that our net payout of dividen d was reduced to only Rs 615 crore. Next year, Sir, there has been no growth of Budgetary Support while the Railways will also have to pay Rs 1,352 crore to the General Exchequer by way of dividend, as the dividend deferral permitted is reduced to Rs 1,0 00 crore only.

Sir, while safety continues to be our core focus in the Annual Plan 2001-02, I have also decided to give major thrust to the completion of new line projects which are pending for long time. Safety is being further strengthened with the allocation for Tra ck Renewals being enhanced from Rs 1,633 crore in the Revised Estimates to Rs 2,050 crore, an increase of 26 per cent. In our continuing drive to improve user services, allocation for passenger amenities is going up to Rs 200 crore marking an increase of 39 per cent over the revised estimates for the current year.

Austerity is a major area engaging my concern. It would be recollected that in the previous year, austerity and economy drive had resulted in net saving of Rs 850 crore. This year again, the target for savings through economy and austerity measures has b een set at Rs 865 crore. I would like to assure the House that in the next year also, austerity and economy will receive high priority.

New trains

Sir, throughout the year, I have been receiving volumes of requests from the people at large and also from Members of Parliament who represent them, on starting new trains and increasing frequencies, extensions etc. Sir, you will surely agree that it is difficult to satisfy everybody. But I do appreciate that in view of our increasing population, these are genuine requirements and hence the expectations. After taking into account the demand, availability of infrastructure, availability of adequate maint enance to ensure safety, impact on freight traffic etc, I am happy to introduce the following new services :-

New Delhi-Raipur-Bilaspur weekly Rajdhani Express

New Delhi-Ranchi-Hatia weekly Rajdhani Express

Bi-weekly express between Gorakhpur and New Delhi.

Bangalore-Vasco bi-weekly express.

Pune-Ernakulam weekly express via Londa and Madgaon.

Asansol-New Jalpaiguri weekly express.

Secunderabad-Dharmavaram Express.

Sealdah-New Jalpaiguri Bi-weekly Express.

Jaipur-Ernakulam Weekly Superfast Express.

Dhanbad-Hatia Inter-city Express.

Howrah-Yashwantpur (Bangalore) Bi-weekly Express.

Indore-Gandhinagar (Ahmedabad) Express.

Howrah-Trivandrum-Nagercoil Weekly express.

Kurla-Bhubaneshwar (Via Sambhalpur) Weekly Express.

Valsad-Patna Weekly Express serving Surat area.

Haldia-Asansol Express.

Jodhpur-Chennai Weekly Express.

Solapur-Pune Inter-city Express.

Jodhpur-Hardwar Link Express.

Palghat-Trivandrum Express.

Bhubaneshwar-Palasa Inter-city Service.

Asansol-Jhajha-Amritsar weekly express.

Weekly Rajdhani Express to Secunderabad upon completion of New Terminal Works at Hazrat Nizamuddin.

Rampurhat-Howrah Inter-city Express.

I have been receiving a large number of appeals from the people from different parts of the country requesting for augmenting services available to second class travelling passengers on long distance routes. Keeping these in view, I am happy to announce that from the next year, I propose to introduce ``Matribhumi'' Express trains to be run during peak rush season with only second class and second class sleeper coaches, on the following routes:

Delhi-Jammu

Howrah-Delhi

Howrah-Dehradun

Delhi-Barauni via Lucknow

Hyderabad-Bangalore

Mumbai-Gorakhpur

Mumbai-Varanasi

This will be my humble effort to help reduce the difficulties faced by common passengers on long distance routes. Depending on the utilisation of these services, their continuity will also be considered.

Increase in frequency

Sealdah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express from 2 days to 4 days a week.

Gorakhpur-Dehradun Express from 2 to 3 days a week.

Rajkot-Ernakulam Express from one to 2 days and extension up to Okha.

Jabalpur-Rajkot Express from 2 to 4 days by extending Rajkot-Bhopal Express to Jabalpur on 2 days.

Jealdah-Darbhanga Ganga Sagar Express from 4 days to daily.

Visakhapatnam-Bilaspur Express from 4 days to daily and extension up to Korba.

Secunderabad-Rajkot Express from weekly to 2 days.

Nizamuddin-Bilaspur Gondwana Express from 3 to 5 days by extending Nizamuddin Nagpur Express to Bilaspur.

Indore-Jaipur Express from weekly to 2 days.

Extensions

Surat-Patna Bi-weekly Express from Patna up to Bhagalpur.

Pune-Varanasi Express to Darbhanga on one day.

New Delhi Guwahati Rajdhani Bi-weekly express to Dibrugarh Town from one day to two days.

Chennai-Guwahati Bi-weekly Express to Dibrugarh Town on one day.

Jodhpur-Jaipur Inter-city Express to Sawai Madhopur.

Guwahati-Lumding Express to Dimapur.

Kacheguda-Palasa Express to Bhubaneshwar.

Jodhpur-Jammu Tawi Express to Ahmedabad.

Howrah-Gorakhpur weekly Express via Barauni, Ballia and Indara to provide a direct service between Ballia and Howrah.

Service introduced/to be introduced on completion of Gauge conversion/New lines/Restoration

*Upon completion of Peddapally Karimnagar New Line, two pairs of passenger services have just been introduced from February 14, 2001.

Following services will be introduced on the recently completed Gandhidham-Bhuj Gauge Conversion:Extension of Mumbai-Gandhidham Kutch Express to Bhuj.

Extension of Bareilly Gandhidham Bi-weekly Express to Bhuj.

Extension of Pune-Gandhidham Weekly express to Bhuj.

Two pairs of passenger services.

*On the recently restored metre-gauge line between New Mal Junction and Changrabandha, one pair passenger service will be introduced between Siliguri and Changrabandha via New Mal junction.

*One pair of passenger service will be introduced between Eklakhi and Gazol and extended up to Balurghat upon completion of the new line.

*An express train from Howrah to Digha will be introduced on completion of the new line. In the interim period, a DMU service will be run on the 16 kilometre completed portion between Tamluk and Bajkul.

*Two pairs of broad gauge service will be introduced upon completion of gauge conversion of Pandharpur-Kurduwadi section.

MEMU/EMU service

Kazipet-Dornakal-Vijayawada

Purulia-Adra

Bilaspur-Nagpur

Kanpur-Shikohabad

Bilaspur-Raigarh

Bally-Bandel (2 pairs)

DMU service

Kharagpur-Jaleshwar-Bhubaneshwar

Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur

Kotkapura-Fazilka

Samastipur-Darbhanga

New lines

Sir, the House is aware that Railways have a large shelf of new line projects costing about Rs 20,000 crore, of gauge conversion projects costing about Rs 9,100 crore, and of doubling projects amounting to Rs 3,300 crore which have been duly sanctioned b y the Parliament over the last five decades and are awaiting completion. After having seen the implementation for last one year, I have reached the conclusion that adding new projects to already sanctioned large shelf of the ongoing projects will only ag gravate the problem.

Therefore, I have taken this bold decision of not including any new line project in the next years budget. I am afraid this may disappoint many of my colleagues here. But, Sir, in the long-term interests of the Railways I feel that this has become inesca pable.

I further propose that ways and means must be found to expeditiously complete the on-going projects. Sir, that is why, I have decided to increase the investment in new line projects in the next year by as much as 45 per cent in comparison to the revised estimates of the current year. This increase, amounting to Rs 312 crore, will not only facilitate general speeding up of new line implementation, but will also result in completion of the long-pending projects.

On-going new lines, which have either been completed recently or would be completed before March 2001 are:

Puttaparthi-Penukonda section of Dharmavaram-Penukonda project.

Kashinagar-Kakdweep section of Lakshmikantapur-Namkhana project.

Kapadvanj-Modasa project.

Eklakhi-Gazol section of Eklakhi-Balurghat project.

Jaruri-Banspani section of Daitari-Banspani project.

Bargachia-Munshirhat section of Howrah-Amta project.

Tamluk-Bajkul section of Tamluk-Digha line.

The new lines targeted to be completed in 2001-02 are:

Gazol-Buniadpur of Eklakhi-Balurghat project.

Dharmavaram-Penukonda, completing the Dharmavaram-Penukonda project.

Dewas-Maksi new line section.

Bajkul to Digha of Tamluk-Digha project.

Gauge conversion

The sections of which gauge conversion has either been completed or would be completed before March, 2001 are:

Nonera-Seoni section of Guna-Etawah project

Raxaul-Birganj section

Gandhidham-Bhuj section

During 2001-02, Railways plan to complete the gauge conversion of the following sections:

Seoni-Bhind

Amguri-Tuli

Makum-Dangri

Laxmanthirtha bridge

Gooty-Pendakallu

Dhrangadara-Kuda

Wankaner-Morbi

Doubling

During the current year about 200 km of doubling would be completed, while in the next financial year a target of 300 km has been proposed. Sir, keeping in view the critical need to augment line capacity in certain saturated sections, you will be happy t o know that the following new doubling works are being included in the budget.

Ernakulam-Mulanturutti section on Ernakulam-Kottayam-Kayankulam line.

Bandel-Jirat section on Bandel-Katwa line.

Baruipur to Magraghat.

Harishchandrapur-Kumarganj section on Malda-Kumedpur line.

Gooty-Renigunta section-Doubling of remaining single line sections.

Sir, it gives me pleasure to inform the House that we have decided to extend the following works as part of some of the on-going projects.

*Extension of Sultanganj-Deogarh new line project with a new link from Banka to Barahat.

*Extension of BDR gauge conversion project by a new link from Bowai-Chandi to Khana to connect Midnapur, Bankura and Purulia.

*Extension of Mansi-Saharsa Gauge Conversion project up to Dauram-Madhepur.

*Gauge conversion from Krishnanagar-Shantipur as an extension to the sanctioned doubling from Kalinarayanpur to Krishnanagar.

*Extension of Fatua-Islampur-Dhaniawan-Biharsharif new railway line project to Barbhigha.

*Extension of sanctioned doubling project from Kalinarayanpur to Krishnanagar by providing a new link from Krishnanagar to Charatala on the Krishnagar-Karimpur.

*Extension to Rajkot Veraval GC project by taking up gauge conversion from Wansjalia to Jetalsar.

*Extension of Eklakhi-Balurghat project by a new link from Gazol to Itahar as Phase-I of Gazol-Raiganj.

*Extension of Rewari-Sadulpur gauge conversion project to Hissar.

*Extension of Kanpur-Mathura-Kasganj-Bareilly gauge conversion project to Lalkuan.

*Extension of Lumding-Badarpur-Silchar gauge conversion project from Badarpur to Baraigram.

*Extension of sanctioned GC from Ajmer-Chhitaurgarh-Udaipur project to Umra.

*New line from Banka-Bhitiah Road as extension to Sultanganj-Deogarh new line project.

Considering the long standing demand of the people of Murshidabad and the need for development in this area, I am happy to announce that restoration work of Nasipur (Azimganj) Jiaganj Railway line will be taken up during the year 2001-2002. Separately a survey work for construction of a bridge over Bhagirathi to connect these two will also be undertaken.

Restoration of Teesta Valley narrow gauge line from Sevok to Gillikhola has been a long standing demand of the people of Sikkim and North Bengal. I have also decided to take up the restoration of this important railway line during 2001-2002.

Another significant rail link needing urgent restoration is Mogra-Tarakeshwar line. This also has been a long standing demand of the people and accordingly, I have decided to start the work on its restoration in 2001-2002.

Sir, it would be recollected that in the last budget I had announced a new line project for facilitating better connectivity of North Eastern states. This New Moinaguri-Jogighopa line will be routed through Changrabandha to facilitate better communicatio n links with neighbouring states.

Surveys

On the basis of requests received from the Honourable Members and State Governments, I have decided to take up several surveys during the next financial year. These are:

New line surveys

Bhagirathi Bridge to connect Nasipur and Jiaganj Railway line

Donakonda to Vedareva

Mysore to Mangalore via Madikere

Latur Road to Mudkhed

Ferozpur Cantt. to Taran Taran

Halem to Itanagar

Kharghoda to Santalpur

Bulb line at Shoranur

Rotegaon to Punthamba

Sahnewal to Ladowal

Madurai to Tuticorin

Vaikam to Vaikam Road

Kumbhakonam to Namakal via Jayakondam, Ariyadur, Perambdur and Thuraiyur

Shahganj to Amethi via Sultanpur

Kazipet to Nalgonda

Jiribam-Imphal

Jhajha to Giridih via Sonuchakai

Updating survey for Ernakulam-Punalur-Trivandrum

Jaypore-Malkangiri

Howrah-Sealdah 3rd line between Belangar-Bally and additional loop at Dumdum, Baranagar and Bally

Budge Budge to Uluberia including a rail-cum-road bridge.

2nd coaching terminal at Trivandrum

Byepass at Bandel and Naihati

Ranjitpura to Yeshwantnagar

Development of infrastructure in Kakinada area

Thanjavur to Chennai Egmore via Adiyalur

Gauge conversion surveys

Virudnagar to Manamadurai

Doubling surveys

Ujjain to Indore

Patratu Chandil via Barkhakana

Gooty-Renugunta section of remaining single line section

Railway electrification

In the current year, electrification of 425 route kilometres is envisaged and the following sections are planned to be completed before March 2001:

Sirhind-Nangaldam-Una

Ranaghat-Gede

Ranaghat-Bongaon

Some of the important routes to be completed in the next year are:

East Coast line from Visakhapatnam to Kharagpur. With this, the entire Calcutta-Chennai route will stand electrified.

Main line of Eastern Railway, (Sitarampur-Mughalsarai) providing alternative electrified route on Asansol-Mughalsarai section.

Udhna-Jalgaon section linking two important electrified main trunk routes of Delhi-Mumbai via. Western and Central Railways will be electrified.

Industrial relations & staff amenities

Railways have a large human resource base. There is need to further enhance their skills by using modern tools and techniques of the 21st century along with modern management concepts. There is a need to maintain a cordial relationship between the worker s and the management in a large enterprise like Indian Railways. Industrial Relations over Indian Railways remained peaceful and cordial during the year. The grievance redressal machinery under PNM and JCM schemes functioned satisfactorily at all levels.

Sir, I am happy to announce that I propose to enhance the outlay on staff amenities by as much as 45 per cent over the revised estimates for the current year. Railway staff members are highly committed and hardworking and I am proud of them. I would also take this opportunity to announce that keeping in view acute housing difficulties being faced by our employees, a novel housing scheme called `Own Your Own House' scheme is being devised. Detailed modalities in this regard will be worked out soon.

Sports

Sir, I am happy to inform the House that during 2000-01, Indian Railway sportspersons performed creditably both at the National and the International level. Many Railway Athletes participated in the Asian Track and Field Athletic Meet held at Jakarta in August, 2000 and won 9 medals including 3 gold and 6 silver in individual events. Apart from this, four Indian Railway athletes were members of the Gold and one Silver Medal winning relay teams.

Sir, the Members will be happy to know that the policy for recruitment of sportspersons has been revised and substantially liberalised to attract more talents. I am also happy to inform the House that we have decided to form a separate sports cadre at ga zzetted level with an objective of providing further promotion to outstanding sports persons.

Sir, I am also happy to inform the House that the allocation for Railways Sports Promotion Board is proposed to be increased to Rs 3 crore which is 36 per cent higher over the revised estimate for the current year. This will go a long way in promoting sp orts activities in the Railways.

Reforms and restructuring

Sir, If I may be permitted to use a Railway metaphor, I would say that the Indian railways are today standing at a junction station. One track takes them to reforms, revival and rejuvenation. The other track will lead them to a nowhere land of crisis and chaos. Sir, we must make the right choice, sooner, rather than later. We have already set in motion various reform measures. Efforts are underway to generate resources through non-traditional sources.

We recognise this task is not going to be easy at all and it cannot be done overnight as well. A system which remained largely unchanged during five decades will need some amount of time, continuity and perseverance with the full support of not only the Central Government but the State Governments as well. Sir, we also feel that in any reform exercise, our employees will be our strength. We feel that no reforms can be successful without full involvement of the people. I would like to assure this House t hat Railways shall not be privatised.

The House is aware that a Railways expert group was set up in 1998. The group has submitted an Interim Executive Summary of its report recently, which is under examination. The detailed report is awaited.

Sir, we all know that Railways urgently need modernisation. However, we need to select appropriate technology. We also have to find innovative means of funding this process of modernisation. I am happy to inform the House that I have set up an Advisory C ommittee under the Chairmanship of Mr Sam Pitroda for suggesting ways and means of initiating comprehensive modernisation of Indian Railways with the application of appropriate technologies. The Committee will also suggest areas for resource mobilisation in various facets of railway functioning.

International co-operation

In our continuing efforts to promote international co-operation among the neighbouring countries, I am happy to inform the House that the rail link between Petrapole in India and Benapole in Bangladesh has recently been restored and opened for goods traf fic. This will pave the way for running of passenger services also.

PART-II

Budget estimates 2001-02

Sir, I shall now deal with the Budget Estimates for 2001-02.

A general recession has been observed in the economy since 1998-99, as we all know. Consequently, the infrastructure sector has also shown a downward trend in the recent years. Despite this, Indian Railways have shown remarkable resilience and performed quite well for last two years in terms of freight loading etc. In 2001-02, Railways showed a moderate and somewhat subdued growth in freight traffic mainly due to slowing down of economy. It would be recollected that Railways had performed very well and had achieved a growth of 8.43 per cent in freight traffic in 1999-2000. In the current year, mainly due to improved supply of coal to powerhouses, the goods traffic to end January 2001, at 389.40 million is 4.98 per cent higher than the level achieved in the corresponding period of last year.

The freight traffic target for the budget year 2001-02 has been fixed at 500 million tonnes, an increment of 25 million tonnes over the current year's target of 475 million tonnes. This ambitious target has been kept in view of the special marketing effo rts being made by the Railways and on an anticipation of an expected faster growth of the economy.

In this context, I am happy to announce that to facilitate adequate availability of rolling stock for freight movement, for the second year in succession, wagon procurement target has been projected at the level of 23,000 for the next year. This will giv e further fillip to the wagon industry in general. For passenger traffic, nine per cent increase has been provided in keeping with the long-term growth in passenger traffic. With these projections, the goods earnings are assessed at Rs 24,735 crore and p assenger earnings at Rs 11,387 crore.

In view of the initiatives taken in the parcel segment, a growth of 8.8 per cent has been projected and consistent with this other coaching earnings are placed at Rs 850 crore. Recognising the imperatives of identifying and tapping the potential of non-t raditional revenue, the initiative taken while presenting the Railway Budget last year is proposed to be continued. It is the expectation that with the groundwork done during the current year, there will be a distinctly improved achievement during 2001-0 2.

Accordingly, sundry other earnings, for 2001-02 have been placed at Rs 1,717 crore, which include Rs 700 crore by way of leasing of right of way for optic fibre cables, Rs 200 crore from commercial exploitation of land and air space; and another Rs 100 c rore through commercial publicity on Railway premises and rolling stock, apart from a normal growth of 5.4per cent.

Sir, the bulk of the outstanding dues in Traffic Suspense relate to Power Houses especially Badarpur Thermal Power Station. The House would agree that no organisation can sustain dues of the order of Rs 1,662 crore which has outstanding as on March 31, 2 000. We had kept a clearance target of Rs 500 crore from Badarpur Thermal Power Station during 2000-01 relying on an assurance given by the Ministry of Power. However, the outstanding continues to mount and, as on December 31, 2000, these stand at Rs 3,0 27 crore. Sir, Railways are always a good paymaster. But Sir, we do not receive our dues especially from the power sector. Even then, we continue to carry coal for powerhouses.

In anticipation of a positive development in this regard, a target of Rs 750 crore of clearance from Traffic Suspense has been kept, expecting a sizeable clearance of these dues. Gross Traffic Receipts are accordingly estimated at Rs 39,439 crore.

Ordinary Working Expenses at Rs 30,190 crore provide for a minimal increase over the current year, resulting in a total variation of 8.53 per cent over the Revised Estimates, for 2000-01. Appropriation to Pension Fund is placed at Rs 5,790 crore and Depr eciation Reserve Fund has been provided at Rs 2,704 crore based upon the actual requirement for plan resources.

The total Working Expenses will, thus, amount to Rs 38,684 crore leading to Net Traffic Receipts of Rs 755 crore. Net Miscellaneous Receipts are estimated at Rs 928 crore. This also takes into account Rs 300 crore proposed to be received from General Rev enues for Railway Safety Works. Thus, the Net Revenue works out to Rs 1,683 crore.

Dividend to General Revenues has been worked out at seven per cent of the Capital-at-charge as recommended by the Railway Convention Committee. The Memorandum for 2001-02 has been submitted to the Committee and their Report has been laid in the House on February 23, 2001. The dividend projected in the Budget Estimate 2001-02 is Rs 2,352 crore. However, in view of a shortfall in internal resources for plan needs and based on details worked out in consultation with the Finance Ministry, it is proposed to pay to General Revenues only Rs 1,352 crore and transfer the balance Rs 1,000 crore to the Deferred Dividend Liability Account.

Based on the above projections, the ``Excess'' of receipts over expenditure in 2001-02 comes to Rs 331 crore, which falls short of the requirements of plan expenditure by Rs 500 crore. In view of the limited internal resources, appropriation to be made t o the Capital Fund would be limited to the quantum of interest payable on the loan taken from the General Exchequer in 2000-01. All projects hitherto charged to Capital Fund would now be funded from Capital. This leaves an uncovered gap of Rs 500 crore w hich is required to be mobilised additionally.

Sir, last year I had not increased the freight rates for essential commodities. This year also, I do not propose to increase the freight rates of essential commodities such as edible salt, grains and pulses, sugar, fruits and vegetables, urea, edible oil s, kerosene and LPG. These commodities are used by every one and constitute a significant part of the housewives budget. I have no intention to upset the domestic budget and therefore I am exempting these commodities from any hike.

Sir, I am aware that an increase in freight rates has some direct or indirect effect on the economy. It must, however, be recognized that Railways are also being subjected to similar inflationary pressure. As was done in the previous year, the Railways w ill continue to absorb some part of the increase in the cost of inputs, but the circumstances demand that freight rates have to be adjusted by a small margin. As such I propose a nominal three per cent (three per cent) increase in rates of all commoditie s except those essential commodities mentioned before or those proposed to be charged differently as under. Keeping in view the request made by major industries, I have decided that freight rates for Coal (not meant for household consumption) and Iron & Steel (Division A, B, and C) is also proposed to be increased by only two per cent (two per cent). Further, in order to attract more Black Oil traffic to rail, the increase for Furnace Oil is proposed to be restricted to one percent (1per cent).

Certain sections of the Railway network have become saturated, yet the demand on these sections is still growing. As is normal in the pricing policy in various transport sectors, I propose to charge a premium for carriage of traffic over these sections. The distance of charge would be suitably inflated for freight traffic on a few congested sections experimentally during this year.

In view of the increase of seven per cent (seven per cent) in Parcel rate made in last budget, I propose to exempt Parcel and Luggage rates from any increase next year. This exemption will also be applicable to newspaper, magazines and medicines etc. Sir , I am happy to announce that concessional MST (Monthly Season Ticket) scheme meant for the people below the poverty line which was approved last year will continue.

Sir, in the concessions granted to various categories of handicapped persons, there has been certain grievance from those who are visually handicapped or mentally handicapped. Sir, in order to ensure uniformity in availing the concessional facilities by all categories of handicapped persons, I am happy to announce that the visually handicapped and mentally handicapped persons shall also be entitled to the same benefits which are otherwise available to orthopaedically handicapped and paraplegic persons.

Sir, our vision is to make the Indian Railways an example of commitment. Our vision is to make the railway journey a matter of joy for every passenger. Our vision is to give travel opportunity to every Indian at affordable cost. Our vision is to unlock t he hidden wealth of the railways and make it a strong self-sustained organisation, devoted to the cause of national development.

Sir, I am committed to make each of my dreams come true. And I will do this with all 16 lakh family members of Indian Railways.

Sir, you will recall that I did not increase the passenger fares in the last budget. There have been many criticisms on this account. But I draw strength from the famous quote of Tagore:

``Give me the strength, never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might.''

I would like to bring to your notice Sir, that despite there being no increase in passenger fares, the earnings from passenger traffic are poised to exceed the budgeted level. Till December, 2000 there has been an increase of 10 per cent (10 per cent) co mpared to the same period last year. I attribute this to various efforts being made by the Railways to augment passenger traffic and the general improvement in the services and amenities offered to the travelling public. I am hopeful that this buoyancy w ould continue in the coming year as well. I do not, therefore, propose to increase the passenger fares of any class or category of trains.

Conclusion

In the end, I wish to express my gratitude to the 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 the Railways in achieving thei r task successfully. I am also thankful to the rail users whose cooperation we have been getting always.

Sir, with these words I commend the Railway Budget 2001-02 to the House.

Pic.: BUT, NO BURDEN FOR PASSENGERS: The Railway Budget papers being brought to Parliament House on Monday.

Picture by Kamal Narang

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