The Railway Budget for 2013-14 today spared passengers from any further hike in fares but raised various other charges on tickets along with freight tariff of less than 5%.
Presenting the Budget in the Lok Sabha, railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who had effected an across-the-board hike in passenger fares only last month, said he does not intend to pass on the impact of deregulation of diesel price for now and the Railways will absorb a burden of Rs. 850 crore on account of this.
The first Congress minister to present a Railway Budget in 17 years, Bansal adopted Fuel Adjustment Component introduced by former Trinamool minister Dinesh Trivedi which will be dynamic in nature and change in either direction with revision in fuel cost twice a year.
He said this may result in an upward revision of freight tariff, effective from April 1, this year, by less than 5%.
In his 75-minute speech which was drowned in opposition slogan-shouting towards the end, Bansal said there are a number of supplementary charges which have not been revised for last several years.
"I propose to effect marginal increase in some of these. These include supplementary charge for superfast trains, reservation fee, clerkage charge, cancellation charge and tatkal charge," he said, without specifying the quantum of these charges.
Bansal, however, proposed to abolish the concept of enhanced reservation fee with a view to simplifying the fee structure, having already discontinued development charge in January this year.
In January, the minister effected an across-the-board hike in passenger fares that would net Rs. 6,600 crore a year. However, the subsequent hike in diesel price and electricity charges put an additional burden of Rs. 3,300 crore on the railways which is projected to see a loss of Rs. 24,600 crore in the current financial year, up from Rs. 22,500 crore in 2011-12 in passenger traffic segment.
WATCH VIDEO -- Part 1: Rail budget highlights
Bansal said the proposal for setting up of Railway Tariff Regulatory Authority has been formulated and was at the stage of inter-ministerial consultations.
The Budget proposes introduction of 67 new Express trains, 26 new passenger trains and extension of 57 others.
It also contains a slew of concessions like complimentary passes to recipients of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Dhyan Chand awards in First Class and 2nd AC and Olympic medalists and Dronacharya awardees in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains.
With regard to passenger amenities, the Budget proposes provision of free Wi-Fi facilities on several trains, progressive extension of bio-toilets on trains and induction of Next-Gen e-ticketing system capable of issuing 7,200 tickets per minute against 2,000 now.
As many as 1.2 lakh users can access tickets simultaneously under the proposed upgraded system against 40,000 now.
Touching on financial performance for 2012-13, Bansal said loading target has been revised to 1,007 Million Tonnes against 1,025 MT in budget estimates due to economic slowdown.
Gross Traffic Receipts have been fixed at Rs. 1,25,680 crore in revised estimates, short by Rs. 6,872 crores over Budget estimates.
Ordinary Working Expenses have been retained at Budget Estimate level of Rs. 84,400 crores, while pension payments have increased by Rs 1,500 crore to Rs. 20,000 crores.
Dividend liability to the government has been fully discharged. The Budget shows an 'excess' of Rs. 10,409 crores as against the Budget amount of Rs. 15,557 crores. Loan of Rs. 3,000 crore taken in the current year has been fully repaid along with interest. Operating Ratio has been recorded at 88.8%, as compared to 94.9% in 2011-12.
The Budget Estimates for 2013-14 has fixed a freight loading target of 1,047 MT, 40 MT more than the previous year.
Passenger growth has been estimated at 5.2% and gross traffic receipts at Rs. 1,43,742 crore, an increase of Rs. 18,062 crore over the revised estimates of the current year.
Ordinary working expenses have been placed at Rs. 96,500 crore. Appropriation to Depreciation Reserve Fund has been pegged at Rs. 7,500 crore and Pension Fund at Rs. 22,000 crore.
Dividend Payment has been estimated at Rs. 6, 249 crore.
Operating ration is expected to improve by one per cent to 87.8 % and fund balance to exceed Rs. 12,000 crore.
Annual Plan for Railways for the coming year has been fixed at Rs 63,363 crore, the largest ever, with Gross Budgetary Support of Rs. 26,000 crore. Allocation for Railway Safety Fund has been fixed at Rs. 2,000 crore while internal resources have been estimated at Rs. 14,260 crore.
As part of extra budgetary resources, market borrowing has been pegged at Rs. 15,103 crore while public-private partnership will yield Rs. 6,000 crore.
Inducting fiscal discipline, the Railway Minister said no supplementary demands for grants will be introduced in the monsoon or winter sessions of Parliament and 347 projects have been prioritised with assured funding.
A new Debt Service Fund will be set up to meet committed liabilities and a target of creating a fund balance of Rs. 30,000 crore in the terminal year of the 12th Plan has been fixed.
As many as 72 additional suburban services will be introduced in Mumbai and 18 in Kolkata. There are plans to introduce first AC EMU rake in the Mumbai suburban network in the coming financial year.
Rake length has been increased from nine to 12 car for 80 services in Kolkata and 30 in Chennai.
The Budget proposes 500 km of new lines, doubling of 750 km and gauge conversion of 450 km.
Arunachal Pradesh will have the first ever rail link in the coming year, Bansal announced.
The Budget proposes a corporate safety plan for a 10 year period (2014-24) and elimination of 10,797 level crossings during the 12th Plan.
There will be no addition of level crossings in the Indian Railways henceforth. As part of safety features, a train protection warning system on automatic signalling systems will be introduced and rigorous trials of the indigenously developed train collision avoidance system will be conducted.
Among the rail-based industries to be set up are, a Forged Wheel Factory at Rae Bareli, the constituency of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, a greenfield MEMU manufacturing facility at Bhilwara in Rajasthan and a coach manufacturing factory at Sonepat.
Railways should ensure safety for women: Madhu Bansal
"I generally travel between Chandigarh and Delhi and find the journey safe. I feel the railways should have a women helpline so that female passengers can lodge a complaint in case of any problem," Madhu Bansal, wife of Bansal said.
'Rae Bareli' Budget:
The Opposition party BJP termed it as "pedestrian" and "discriminatory" and claimed that the NDA ruled states had been discriminated against.
"Now the government has introduced dynamic fuel adjustment component on freight rates that will result in a 5% increase in rates. Any increase in freight rates is bound to push all round inflation in the country," he said.
BJP leader Gopinath Munde said it was more of a 'Rae Bareli budget', claiming it has favoured Sonia Gandhi's constituency while SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said it was a "budget for the Congress".
"This is not Rail Budget but Rae Bareli budget. This budget has not been prepared keeping in mind the whole country and this is the reason one could see an attempt to disrupt the budget presentation due to unrest among the MPs," Munde, deputy leader of BJP, told reporters outside Parliament.
Rail budget aims at killing projects in Bengal: Trinamool
West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress, the Congress party's estranged ally, slammed the railway budget, alleging it was directed towards "killing the projects" initiated by party chief Mamata Banerjee, who was then the railway minister.
"The budget has only one direction that is how to kill projects, started by the Trinamool Congress railway ministers, especially with regard to West Bengal. Bengal has been singled out with an effort to kill all the projects in the state. Ultimately it will harm the railways as a whole," said Trinamool MP Saugata Roy.
Budget for Congress, says Maya; Mulayam slams it as anti-people:
Key allies outside UPA allies Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party too were unhappy saying it was anti-poor and ignored areas of Uttar Pradesh which need rail infrastructure for economic development.
BSP supremo Mayawati said the rail budget was a "disappointment".
"The poor and middle classes will not benefit much from it.... Fare has been hiked through backdoor," she said, a charge echoed by the Left parties which claimed that the rail minister had camouflaged the hike.
"I have never seen such an anti-people budget in my political life.... This is a budget for Congress...you can give new trains for Rae Bareli (Lok Sabha constituency of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi), but don't ignore Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal," Mulayam said.
Referring to the Rs 24,600 crore loss announced by the government today, Mayawati said if Railways are run properly it would not incur any loss.
"Government says it will review the fares twice a year. A review only means an increase in fares. The government will never decrease fares. This will affect the poor and the middle class. It will also affect prices of commodities as they are transported on rail," she said.
She also charged that the government "talks big but does not deliver. The railway platforms are very dirty, the passenger seats are in a bad shape, the food is not good."
Burden on the people: Left parties
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the budget will have cascading effect on prices and "no of its plans are likely to fructify".
"I find this budget is going to be a burden on the people. This budget does not give any hope to the future of the railways," said CPI's D Raja said.
"The budget has no innovative project to ensure safety, modernisation and cleanliness of Railways," the Forward Bloc said.
Bansal's budget uninspiring: Jayalalithaa
Terming the railway budget as a "major disappointment," Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa said the hike in supplementary and freight charges would cause an increase in the prices of essential commodities and fuel inflation.
The budget was "uninspiring" and lacked any long-term perspective with regard to infrastructure development, she said in a statement in Chennai.
India Inc welcomes Rail Budget:
India Inc termed it as "soft" and "balanced" in approach under the given economic conditions.
"The emphasis on financial viability and fiscal discipline of the railways is most reassuring and a welcome direction. Financial discipline, safety and passenger amenities are inherent to the health and condition of this mode of transport, which is availed by the common man. The minister has paid due attention to each," said Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) director general Chandrajit Banerjee.
But apex industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham), while describing the budget as "soft", said that in its efforts to please all sections of society, the government missed another opportunity for effective corporatisation of the Indian Railways to ensure viable commercial operations.
"Capacity constraints of the railways remains the primary issue to be addressed... more so in the wake of mounting pressure on passenger and freight services and the rail budget could have put more focus on this," Assocham president Rajkumar Dhoot said.
CITU denounces Railway Budget:
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said the Railway Budget "reflects gross inconsistencies and contradictions camouflaged in deceptive postures".
Although rail fares were hiked only a month ago, "still (railway minister PK Bansal) did not spare wholly the passenger fare, putting indirect burden on the people", it said in a statement.
"The increase in reservation charges and fuel surcharges will have an impact of hike in passenger fare," said the statement issued by CITU general secretary Tapan Sen.
On Twitter, this is what people had to say:
@narendramodi: Centre's Railway Budget is anti-development & showcases non-performance of Govt. It will increase burden of rising prices on common people.
@vismayshah: Pawan Bansal killed the seriousness of #RailBudget with Free WiFi, sounding more like mungerilal ke haseen sapne..
@tinucherian: Dear Railways, leave all #RailBudget aside, first make sure http://IRCTC.co.in works ! #IRCTC
@Gunmaster_G9: Instead of launching 100 new trains, why not focus on improving facilities and the conditions of the existing one? #RailBudget