Rail Bhawan officials are struggling with an impossible assignment set for them by railway minister Mukul Roy – rewriting this year’s budget proposals.
At a meeting with members of the railway board early this week, Roy is understood to have directed officials to find ways to modify the budget’s “pink book”, which contains details of the works proposed to be undertaken by the public transporter during 2012-13. After reversing Trivedi’s passenger fare hike proposal and upturning several reformist plans, the new railway minister is still not content.
Roy is said to be particularly peeved that the “pink book” does not lay emphasis on the speedy execution of projects related to Bengal, and the lowering of allocation to the Kolkata Metro. The supplementary demands for grants will be discussed when Parliament’s budget session is re-convened on April 24.
At a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on railways last week, officials of the railway ministry were at a complete loss to explain how the shortfall of R6,500 crore — which came about due to the fare hike rollback – would be met. The next meeting has been scheduled for April 17.
For balancing the accounts, officials are working on effecting cuts in the allocations proposed under various heads, including staff welfare, passenger amenities and even passenger safety. The allocation for passenger safety works will be brought down from R2,000 crore to R1,300 crore, sources said, slowing down projects pertaining to the train protection and warning system and anti-collision devices. Projects aimed at laying new tracks and acquiring new coaches are also on the line.
Once presented, the railways budget becomes property of the Lok Sabha, and subsequent changes are not constitutionally permissible. “It’s never been done before. However, Roy has an easier option of moving an amendment enlisting a new expenditure statement of the budget,” a source said.