The Union Budget has proposed a record budgetary allocation of ₹2.40 lakh crore for the Indian Railways on February 1. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam said the allocation was over nine times the amount earmarked in financial year 2013-14.
Roads and Railways have been central to the government’s capital expenditure push and had seen additional capital outlays in the last few budgets.
Overall, the government proposed to increase capital expenditure outlay by 33% to ₹10 lakh crore in 2023-24, which would be 3.3% of the GDP, said Ms. Sitharaman.
“(This overall outlay) would be 3.3% of GDP, almost three times the outlay made in 2019-20. With the substantial increase, it is central to government’s efforts to enhance growth potential and job creation, the crowd in private investments and provides a cushion against global headwinds,” she said in her Budget speech.
She also said 100 critical transport infrastructure projects for last- and first-mile connectivity for coal, fertiliser and food grain sectors have been identified and will be taken up on a priority basis with an investment of ₹75,000 crores, including ₹15,000 crore from private sources.
With increased passenger expectations, the Railways are planning to refurbish more than 1,000 coaches of premier trains such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto, Humsafar and Tejas. The interiors of these coaches will be improved with a modern look and for enhanced passenger comfort.
The Railways was allocated ₹1.4 lakh crore in the Union Budget for 2022-23, of which ₹1.37 lakh crore was earmarked for capital expenditure and ₹3,267 lakh crore for revenue expenditure.
The Economic Survey on January 31 has said that the next 10 years will see a very high level of capital expenditure in the railway sector as capacity growth has to be accelerated, so that by 2030 it is ahead of demand.
Up to 2014, capex on railway was barely 45,980 crore per annum and consequently, the railway was charecterised by high levels of inefficiency and highly congested routes unable to meet the growing demand.
Ms. Sitharaman while presenting the Budget for 2023-24 said that the government hopes to build on the foundation of the previous budget and blue print for India@100.
Dressed in a red saree with black and golden border, Ms. Sitharaman continued with the tradition she set in 2019, carrying the Budget speech in a ‘bahi-khata’, which she used after ditching the briefcase. She kept a digital tablet in a red bahi khata style pouch.
Budget 2023 will be the last full Budget of the Modi government in its second term with the next Lok Sabha election due in April-May of 2024.
(With inputs from agencies)