The Rail Budget for FY 14-15 heralds a new era for railways to wake up from the slumber over a fairly long stretch of time. The slow growth in traffic and high operating ratio (at an unhealthy 94%) were clearly the result of wrong priorities, misdirected investments, and playing politics by announcing projects without caring for implementation.
It is evident from the fact that Indian Railways have added little capacity over the years, and have been faced with dwindling surplus for expansion and modernisation.
The railways, which are the lifeline of the nation, are struggling with precarious finances and are cash strapped, forcing the projects to suffer from huge time and cost overrun. Sadly, the Railway Board, which is constituted by members with a wealth of knowledge and experience, presents a picture of weak organisational structure with lack of empowerment at functional level which delays decision-making process.
The budget has catalogued the deficiencies and drift in policy planning over the past decade, yielding ground to other modes of transport owing to their underperformance.
Admittedly, the share of the public transporter has come down from the onetime 65:35 to 30:70 at present. This is detrimental for national economy in every sense. Rail transport is the most economical means, environment friendly, cuts down carbon emissions and uses 30% of land used for express ways. In this backdrop, the Rail Budget presented today signals good economics over bad politics.
Without doubt, the railways will have the place of pride in the new scheme of things to match progressively with the best in the world. The Rail Budget is a visionary statement to put railways on fast track. The task is difficult but the resolve looks equally strong. There will be a massive requirement of funds, and apparently it would be a far cry to implement the policies with the severe funds crunch and an operating surplus of barely Rs 602 crore for FY15.
The commitment of the new government is reflected in the realistic policies of raising the resources by attracting private investment through PPP model, and no less importantly FDI going up to 100% in designated sectors. Wagon leasing, too, which has been largely in limbo under the current scheme, is going to be encouraged channelising plethora of funds in Rolling Stock investment.
The Diamond Quadrilateral Network will be the pace setter for rejuvenation of Indian Railways. The focus on Dedicated Freight Corridor, which has been lingering far behind schedule, and the laying of new tracks will metamorphose the rail movement.
India, which is aspiring to be a global economic power, is already late in planning to introduce high speed and bullet trains. Speed today is a symbol of progress, and the government has done well to accord high priority to the introduction of fast trains which will add momentum to trade and industry.
We, in Texmaco, have been waiting for this welcome turn of events and are extremely excited with the new direction of the budget. There would be obstacles, no doubt, but given the will, it is hoped that the government will triumph over it. For once, we feel that we have a government which will deliver.