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Railway profit: fact or myth, Mamata probes

business Updated: Jul 23, 2009 21:24 IST
Srinand Jha
Srinand Jha
Hindustan Times
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Did the Indian Railways actually post a whopping Rs.90, 000 crore profit during the five-year tenure of Lalu Prasad Yadav as minister? Or is there some “accounting jugglery” about the figures?

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee has set up a five-member departmental committee to find answers to these vital questions and report within a month.

The committee, under Railway Board Finance Commissioner (FC) Sowmya Raghavan, will go into the “operational, financial and administrative performance of the Indian Railways between 2005-09.

In her reply to the Railway Budget in the Lok Sabha on July 10, Banerjee created a stir when she said the cash surplus of the Railways was a mere Rs 8,361 crore.

Her predecessor Lalu Yadav has claimed the Railways had a cash surplus of Rs 88, 946 crore during his tenure. Of this, the Railways paid a dividend of Rs 21,610 crore to the Union Government, while Rs 23,886 crore was appropriated to the Depreciation Reserve Fund (DRF).

After these, the net surplus during Yadav’s tenure is estimated at Rs 43,450 crore — over five times the figure quoted by Mamata Banerjee.

Senior RJD leader Prem Chand Gupta said the difference is “more about perception than reality”. “The Railways accounts are an open book and ... can be verified at any point by any one,” said Gupta.

“Banerjee and Prasad are saying more or less the same thing, but in different ways,” said Ashok Bhatnagar, former Chairman of the Railway Board. “The accounting system in the Railways is extremely strong. The figures of cash surplus cannot be fudged.”