Aiming to bring in fiscal discipline, the railways are exploring possibilities of cutting revenue losses that come by way of providing free or concessional travel.
Over the last five years, India’s public transporter has incurred a loss of approximately rs 5,000 crore towards providing for free or concessional travel to a total of 53 categories of persons that includes disabled, senior citizens, sportsmen, students, media persons and medical professionals.
The revenue loss on account of free/concessional travel in the last fiscal is estimated at rs 1,300 crore.
“Kick-starting big and long pending projects has been the focus of our committee, although we have looked at various small measures that affect the rail economy adversely”, said a member of the DK Mittal-headed high level committee that was recently set up by railways minister Suresh Prabhu to suggest ways to improve the organisation’s financial health.
The nine-member committee is scheduled to submit its report on Saturday.
Sources said the task of pruning of the list of free/concessional travelers was unlikely to be taken up in a hurry because of the political repercussions that such an exercise will entail. “The exercise is still relevant, as we need to have a scientific estimation of the ‘social responsibility costs’ borne by the railways”, officials said.
Former Railway Board member RC Acharya regarded the matter as a “non-issue”, saying that addressing the freight versus passenger tariff distortions would be more relevant towards cutting revenue losses. Rail expert Raghu Dayal, however, said that the public transporter had “stretched its social responsibilities far too long and far too much” and that it was time for the railways to do some course correction.