Will replacing Dinesh Trivedi with loyalist Mukul Roy at the railway ministry and rolling back fare hikes come back to haunt TMC boss Mamata Banerjee? For, the railways will hardly have any financial muscle to fund Banerjee's dream projects in Bengal.
It seems so as Roy’s immediate task will be to bridge a Rs 5,000-crore gap in the budget outlay for 2012-13 because of the rollback in the fare hike of the sleeper, general categories and suburban trains.
Trivedi’s proposal to hike fares was estimated to generate additional revenues of Rs 6,500 crore. But after the rollback, the railways can generate only R1,000 crore more. Trivedi, in his budget speech, indicated that the cost of the Bengal projects would be about R4,000 crore and borne from the additional revenues from the fare hike.
Now, former railways finance commissioner AV Paulose said, “The Bengal projects will either have to be sacrificed or the government will have to allocate a matching grant of about Rs 5,000 crore to compensate for the rollback decision.” Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, has indicated that the Centre would not be able to fund the Bengal projects.