With the ambition of putting an end to the populism that had come to be associated with it in the last few decades, the Union Cabinet has decided to bring the curtains down on the 92-year-old tradition of presenting a separate Rail Budget. It has been decided to merge the Rail Budget and the General Budget.
Consequently, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will not present it for the year 2017-18. Instead, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present a “unified” budget.
The decision, taken on the recommendation of a NITI Aayog committee headed by its member Bibek Debroy, reflects the decrease over time in the relative size of the Rail Budget compared to some of the other components in the General Budget, such as defence and roads & highways, reducing it to a mere “ritual”, Mr. Jaitley told a media conference after the meeting.
Officials said the reform was intended to “deglamorise” the Railways portfolio and discourage the leveraging of the Rail Budget for handing out largesse to vote banks. Decisions like fare hikes would now become routine ones taken any time during the course of a year without as much public glare, said an official.