It’s always simple and convenient to analyse budgets of a nation (or for that reason any budget) from a layman’s point of view, be it the rail budget, the finance budget, etcetera. There are two valid reasons to back my above-mentioned statement. Firstly, the views of political parties are biased i.e. those in power will always support their government’s budget by referring it as futuristic, good, common men favouring, blah blah blah, while those in opposition without any doubts, will every time oppose the budget by quoting that the budget is disappointing, unrealistic, etcetera. Secondly, the views of most of the experts in light of the technical jargons are not only difficult to understand but also, harder to digest. As such, if a common man tries to understand a budget from the politician’s viewpoints than s/he will be lost forever, and, if s/he tries to break the complicated jargons of the experts than s/he may end up with some fused brain cells. So, what’s the remedy then? Well, let’s see if in this blog we can highlight the Rail Budget 2016-17 in layman’s terminology and understand what this budget brings in with it.
First of all, let us understand what does budget means. In simple words, a budget is a proposal of projected income and expenditure during a specified period. A budget is a presentation of –
- Projected income in monetary terms.
- The means to generate the projected income.
- Anticipated Expenses in monetary terms.
- The areas where the anticipated expenses shall be allocated.
Now, coming on to the Rail Budget 2016-17, let us start with the positive side. At the outset, thanks to the Railway Minister and his team for saving a lot of trees from getting axed by eliminating the printing of around 1.2 million A4 size papers, which would otherwise have been used in the budget presentation. Also, this is the second budget presented by the Honourable Railway Minister, Mr. Suresh Prabhu, and in both the budgets he has come out with flying colours, at least in one field, i.e. rising above the disease of regional politics, contrary to the custom followed by the Former Railway Ministers of starting new trains in the region of their elected constituency or in the region from where they originally belong. However, it seems that Mr. Suresh Prabhu could not restrain himself from giving preference to the areas where elections are going to take place in the coming months like announcing projects worth Rs. 5,000 Crore against 26 proposed plans for the state of Uttar Pradesh, etcetera.
As far as, Rail Budget 2016-17 is concerned it could be termed as a “dream budget”, in the sense that it shows us many dreams that may become a reality in the next 4 years or so. However, how far the dreams will come true is the question, the answer of which lies only in the womb of future. Let’s be optimistic and hope that this budget will drastically change the picture of the most preferred and economical mode of conveyance in India, as well as, it will bring the railway department back on the profitable and competitive track.
Following are the salient features of the Rail Budget 2016-17 –
- Projected Income – An amount of Rs. 1,84,820 Crores is the projected income to be achieved in the next financial year.
- Anticipated Expenses – An amount of Rs. 92,714 Crores is the anticipated expenses to be incurred in the 44 new proposed plans to be implemented during the next financial year.
- Fare – No increase in the passenger or goods fare.
- Innovative measure for Income generation – Since no increase have been made in the passengers or goods fares, so the budget talks about innovative measures for income generation like the sale of advertisement space etcetera.
- New Trains – 4 kind of new trains named as Humsafar (All coaches will be AC-3 tier), Tejas (Having world class facilities and running at a speed of 130km/hour or more), Uday (Late night double-decker AC train, with 40% more passenger seating capacity) and Antyodaya (Unreserved superfast train for long destination) shall be started. However, how many such trains are proposed to be started has not been made clear in the budget. Note: For the details about the new trains to be started, the pink book of budget available on the website of rail department should be referred to.
- Tonnage Capacity – The existing 80 Ton load carrying capacity of goods wagon shall be increased to 100 Ton. This initiative is worth appreciating and a good example of best usage of technology to enhance the productivity of existing resources.
- Infrastructure & Modernisation – 2 Rail Engine factories to be established in India.
- Divyaang – Online facility for booking of a wheelchair for Divyaang shall be made available. Specially designed toilets for Divyaang to be constructed on every railway platform.
- Senior Citizen – The reservation quota for lower birth seats for Senior Citizens has been increased to 120 i.e. 50% increase in the Senior Citizen quota for lower birth reservation.
- Woman – 30% quota for the woman in all the reservation categories and 24 hours Women Helpline Number 182 to be launched (It should be noted here that this helpline number 182 is already functioning and was part of the last year Rail budget too).
- Kids – Baby food, hot water, and changing board facilities shall be made available.
- Train Attendants – Coolie to be addressed as train attendants.
- Problems/Complaints – 2 mobile based applications (Apps) shall be launched for resolution of problems and complaints.
- General Compartment – 3 to 4 extra coaches to be called as “Deendayalu General Coach” shall be attached to long destination trains, with free water and additional mobile charging points. Also, facility to purchase bedding by the passengers shall be extended to the general compartments as well.
- E-Ticket Booking – Enhancing the E-Ticket booking facility from the existing level of booking of 2000Tickets/minute to a booking of 7200 Tickets/minute.
- Ticket Cancellations – Facility for cancellation of booked tickets through Short Message Service (SMS) to be introduced. Also, cancellation of booked tickets by calling on the number 139 to be started, authentication of the cancellation transaction shall be made by sending a One Time Password (OTP) on the registered mobile number.
- Internet Connectivity – Wi-Fi facility to be introduced on railway stations.
- Online Parcel Booking – Facility of online parcel booking to be started.
- Catering – E-Catering facility to be started at 408 railway stations.
- Toilets – 17000 Bio Toilets to be constructed.
- Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras – CCTV to be installed on railway stations and Tatkal ticket booking counters.
- Jobs – Reservation to SC/ST/OBC/Divyaang/Woman in Food related field/departments. Railways will give an opportunity of internship to 100 students for 6 months.
- Entertainment – Services like Frequency Modulation (FM) radio, availability of local cuisine in the trains, etcetera shall be started.
- Cleanliness – Facility wherein the passengers could request for cleaning of the coach through Short Message Service (SMS) shall be introduced.
Railway Mission 2020 – Below mentioned are some of the dream projects which are part of the Railway Mission 2020, which are envisioned to be completed by the year 2020.
- Train Speed – Average train speed to be increased to 80km/hour.
- Train Schedule – 95% of trains to run on the schedule by the year 2020.
- Train Tickets – Availability of tickets to everyone by the year 2020.
One thing that this budget does not speak much about is the means to generate the projected income. As mentioned in the definition of the budget in aforementioned paragraph “means to generate the projected income” is the prerequisite and essential element of every budget. Hence, this is one area where this budget scores fewer numbers. Although, the budget gives a broad guideline about some of the steps that would be taken to generate the projected income like Public Private Partnership (PPP), revenue generation from the sale of advertising space etcetera. However, it should have been more focused and clear about the means. The experts also foresee that one of the biggest challenges for the Railway Ministry in the next financial year is to implement the Seventh Pay Commission.
Nevertheless, we do hope that the learned minister and his team must have surely kept the above-mentioned points in mind and we expect that the picture would be clear in the days to come. We the citizens of India should extend our full support and lay confidence in the Railway Ministry and Team Railways to excel the expectations of its countrymen. Hope the dreams shown in this budget shall come true by the year 2020.
Best wishes and keep up the good work.