The Railway budget presented by Pawan Kumar Bansal is no different from that of his predecessors; introduction of new trains, nil hike in passenger fares, new projects in VVIP constituencies — all these have become routine, ignoring the ground realities. The Minister belied the expectations of many by presenting old wine in new bottle. Passenger amenities, punctuality and safety concerns were addressed rather casually.
The Railway Minister has announced WiFi connectivity in trains. Many trains lack even basic amenities like clean toilets, drinking water, etc. Aren’t we getting our priorities mixed up? WiFi enablement can surely wait. Let the Railways pay attention to the grossly neglected issues.
The annual ritual of Railway budget presentation in Parliament is a carry over from the colonial days. The British-controlled Indian government made available to the Railways (all private companies registered in England) the money required for the construction, maintenance and operation of the Railways by allotting funds every year (April 1 to March 31). Its annual budget of income and expenditure had to be passed by the Viceroy in the Council. But today, the Indian Railways belong to the government, pay annual dividends to the exchequer, and the CAG monitors the performance. The operating policy is determined by the Railway Minister who is a member of the Cabinet. PSUs such as ONGC, SAIL, various power corporations and banks do not present any annual budget. Nor do the Members of Parliament deliberate on it extensively.
S. Chidambaresa Iyer,