Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu on Wednesday released a booklet containing the budget speeches of the first 22 Railways Ministers to cover the period from 1924-25 and 1946-47.
The exercise was taken up in an apparent hurry, as no copies of the compendium were available for distribution to the media, at a function organised at the ministry headquarters at Rail Bhawan.
An official statement said the purpose of the exercise was to bring about a better understanding of the growth of the Indian Railways and its finances.
In the midst of an ongoing debate on scrapping the Rail budget, the compendium’s publication appears to be an indiscreet initiative at bracing the 13 lakh employees for the decision.
The idea has been talked about in the past years, but gained currency after a Niti Aayog committee headed by economist Bibek Debroy recently recommended the step as a measure for transforming the railways.
As head of a high-powered committee on rail restructuring, Debroy had first mooted the idea in an interim report submitted to the Railways Ministry in May 2015.
The Niti Aayog committee pitches for the scrapping of the Railway budget by arguing that such a move would enable the transporter to usher in policy reform measures such as adoption of commercial accounting practices and setting up the framework to enable the sharing of social costs.
The committee’s view is that the contents of the rail budget can be easily covered by documents such as the annual and outcome reports or vision statements. It has suggested the framing of a detailed conceptual framework to provide for the merger of the Rail budget with the General budget.