Friday, July 3, 2009
The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The Railway Budget presented by the Railway Minister in Parliament today reflects a marked deterioration in the financial position of the Railways. The Railway Budget of 2008-09 had reported a cash surplus of around Rs. 20000 crore. This surplus had come down to Rs. 13500 crore in this year's interim Railway Budget (February 2009) and has come down further to Rs. 8700 crore in the current Railway Budget. The UPA Government owes an explanation for this serious deterioration of performance. Why has the cash surpluses of the Railways depleted so rapidly in such a short span of time?
It is evident that the economic slowdown has adversely affected Railway revenues, especially from freight traffic. Estimates for Receipts have been revised downwards from the targets set by the interim Railway Budget presented by the UPA Government earlier this year, which the present Railway Minister has termed “unrealistically high” in her speech. However, the present Railway Minister has failed to come up with any fresh ideas in tackling the situation and turnaround the declining revenue situation. Rather she has chosen to take recourse to the same flawed route of privatisation through PPP projects in a host of areas. The Railway Minister’s reliance on several PPP projects, from development of 50 “world class stations”, new freight and coach terminals, logistics parks, special purpose rolling stocks, perishable cargo centres etc., seems completely misplaced at a time of economic recession when private investment is hardly forthcoming. The Railway Minister has herself admitted in her speech that out of Rs. 3400 crore earmarked in the Annual Plan for 2009-10, for resource mobilization through PPP, “Rs. 3300 crore would just not materialize”.
This contradiction in the approach of the Railway Minister overshadows some of the positive measures announced in the Railway Budget 2009-10, like no hike in passenger fares, Rs. 25 monthly ticket for people earning less than Rs. 1500 per month or a special recruitment drive to fill up vacancies in railway posts for SC/STs, physically challenged, minorities and women. The allocations for crucial areas like railway modernization, safety, electrification etc. are also inadequate.
The CPI (M) demands that the moves towards privatisation and outsourcing in the Railways, which has received a major thrust in this year’s Budget be reversed.