“Good economics over bad politics of the past” is likely to be the theme of the Narendra Modi government’s first rail budget on Tuesday with railways minister DV Sadananda Gowda aiming to pump private investments, including foreign direct investment, into the cash-strapped public transporter.
Having already hiked fare and freight rates last month, Gowda will unveil initiatives to restructure and modernise the railways. The budget is expected to contain measures to improve passenger safety, cleanliness at stations and passenger comfort, besides advancing work on the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor.
The budgetary exercise is also likely to contain a dose of realism, with innovative steps to cut costs and bring in greater transparency and efficiency.
To increase profits in freight transportation, a proposal for “e-registration of wagons on demands” is also expected. “The present practice of manual allocation of wagons is primitive and encourages corrupt practices. If this proposal comes through, nearly `10,000 crore additionally can be earned in freight transportation”, sources said.
A pilot project on this scheme from the coal-rich Jharkhand has been proposed next month.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also likely to have a big imprint on the budget, with several of his pet schemes such as plans to harness alternative energy sources and usage of information technology for transparency and cost-cutting finding a mention in the budget.
Uttar Pradesh – where the BJP won 71 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats in the general elections – is expected to figure high on Gowda’s priority list, with proposals of locomotive sheds at Ghazipur and Mughalsarai likely.
Demands of the newly-created Telengana may also be addressed, with division of the South Central Railway zone between Telengana and Andhra Pradesh one of the options before the railways minister.
Former railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge had set a revenue target of Rs. 1.65 lakh crore in the interim railway budget which included Rs. 1.06 lakh crore from goods and Rs. 45,255 crore from passenger and balance from coaching and other sources.