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Indian Rail Budget 2015: burdening the common man

 

  Indian Railways, Rail Budget 2015, Food Price
Last updated 09 Apr 2016 09:42:35 +0530  
In a nutshell, while making it “costumer friendly,” the Indian rail budget 2015-16 seems to have ignored the interests of the ordinary Indian, many of whom rarely travel by train to experience the improved life during a train journey but buy food to consume and need a house to live in.
 

The railway budget of India for 2015-16 might have been applauded by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues but to many the budget didn’t show desired responsibility in dealing with issues that have direct link with the food market, thus the interests of the ordinary people of the country.

Going by what PM Modi tweeted soon after the Railway Minister’s speech, “The rail budget is futuristic and passenger-centric and lays out a clear roadmap to make the national transporter the key driver of the country’s economic growth – combining a clear vision and a definite plan to achieve it.”

The budget claims to be passenger-friendly by proposing, to ensure improved quality of life while travelling by train, to start services of SMS alerts, provision for Wi-Fi facility in 400 stations, improved facilities in the berths, expanding provision of bio-toilets in trains, installing ticketing machines in more number of stations, installation of cameras for the safety of women travelling by dedicated coaches etc.

“Given the importance of rail travel for our citizens we will increase our daily passenger carrying capacity from 21million to 30 million. We will also increase track length by 20% from 1,14,000 km to 1,38,000 km, and we will grow our annual freight carrying capacity from 1 billion to 1.5 billion tonnes,” the railway minister Suresh Prabhu said during his budget speech.

“Over the next five years, we envisage an investment of Rs. 8.5 lakh crore,” the minister added highlighting that “our priority will be to significantly improve capacity on the existing high-density networks. Improving capacity on existing networks is cheaper.”

“This is a watershed moment for Railways, marking a paradigm shift from discussing coaches and trains to comprehensive railway reform,” said the PM applauding and terming the rail budget 2015 as focused on the common man, putting speed, scale, service and safety, all on one track.”

 

Quotation starts

The “customer oriented” budget looks like a “troubling one” for the common man or the ordinary consumers of the country at some pointes, particularly when freight charges on essential items are concerned.

Quotation ends

The budget however didn’t make any reduction in passenger fares despite the fall in diesel price and the provision, in the current rail budget, for a further reduction of freight charges on diesel by 1%.

Passengers now can look forward to cleanliness, better facilities for the differently abled and senior citizens and ease of interacting with railways in ticketing and travel. The customer is certainly the centre of all activities,” noted Amrit Pandurangi, senior director and leader infrastructure and capital projects of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt Ltd, in a piece in the LiveMint.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has brought a high level of clarity in the focus areas through the concept of thrust areas, and articulated clearly the fact that the railways is now going to be a highly ‘customer-oriented’ organization,” Pandurangi added.

However, the “customer oriented” budget looks like a “troubling one” for the common man or the ordinary consumers of the country at some pointes, particularly when freight charges on essential items are concerned.

Even though the Railway Minister, in his budget speech, highlighted that the railways would be an instrument of eliminating poverty, this spirit seemed to be missing in the budget that proposed a hike of freight charges on food grains and pulses by the highest slab of 10%, which would directly impact the food market and escalate food, pulse and oil prices to burden the common man further.

The budget also proposes hike in freight charges on urea, a base fertiliser used by the farmers of the country, by 10 per cent. This would not only lead to higher input cost in agriculture but also increase the cost of farm produces causing food prices escalate further while adding to the subsidy burden.

"With the increase in freight, the subsidy paid for movement of urea will increase by another Rs 300 crore from current level of Rs 3,000 crore," said Satish Chander, Fertilizer Association of India (FAI) as quoted in a PTI report published in the Times of India newspaper.

Increase in freight charges on groundnut oil by 2.1%, on LPG and Kerosene by 0.8% would also increase the burden on the ordinary Indian.

Even, at a time when the Modi government is counting low cost housing as a priority sector, the rail budget proposed a hike in freight charges on cement by 2.7%.

"Our cost of production will go up in the range between Rs 2 and Rs 4 per bag of 50 kg cement," said Mohendra Singi, CEO of Dalmia Bharat Cement Group in the aforementioned PTI report.

This would not only make housing a costly affair but would also affect various government housing schemes for the welfare of poor people.

In a nutshell, while making it “costumer friendly,” the Indian rail budget 2015-16 seems to have ignored the interests of the ordinary Indian, many of whom rarely travel by train to experience the improved life during a train journey but buy food to consume and need a house to live in.

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