|Saturday, February 26, 2000,
Rail fare untouched
NEW DELHI, Feb 25 Proposing a 5 per cent hike in freight charges of all commodities, barring essential commodities, and sparing passenger fares, the Railway Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, today unveiled an innovative budget that leans heavily on generating internal resources and non traditional sources of revenue to tide over a difficult financial situation.
Presenting her maiden budget for the year 2000-01, Ms Banerjee exempted essential commodities like foodgrains, sugar, salt, edible oils, kerosene, cooking gas, fruits and vegetables from the 5 per cent freight hike which along with a 7 per cent increase in the scale rates of parcel and luggage, including motor car rates, effective April 1, is expected to generate an additional revenue of Rs 600 crore.
The Plan outlay for the next fiscal has been pegged at Rs 11,000 crore, constituting an increase of about 23 per cent over the revised plan outlay of Rs 8,965 crore for the current year. Capital support from the General Exchequer at Rs 3540 crore is around 40 per cent higher than last year and it is proposed to go in for market borrowings to the extent of Rs 3668 crore. The balance Rs 3792 crore is being sought to be met through a combination of normal internal resources, non-traditional sources of revenue and contribution from General Revenues for Railway Safety Works.
On her decision not to increase passenger fares, the Minister said there was a general feeling that in many respects passengers do not get the quality of service from the Indian Railways. Despite serious financial constraints, an increased outlay on passenger amenities had been proposed, which was 54 per cent higher than the current years revised estimates. She said she was committed to increasing passenger amenities on trains and platforms.
The Budget also proposes to rationalise the tariff and classification of certain commodities in order to remove disparity.
The proposal to contain the increase in rates of some commodities like coal (not meant for household consumption), iron and steel, cement, iron ore, limestone, dolomite and certain petroleum products is with a view to encouraging higher industrial growth, she said.
Ms Banerjee also sought to correct the distortion arising from he Railways past practice of charging concessional tariff for chemical manures and in this regard proposed to upgrade their classification.
Exempting urea from the increase altogether, Ms Banerjee proposed to raise the freight charges for livestock and oilseeds to make their haulage financially more viable and announced that the average increase in the freight rates in these commodities would be more than the normal increase of 5 per cent. There are also plans to attach additional coaches in passenger trains to enhance revenue.
The Minister also announced a few other concessional schemes:
To commemorate the 50th year of Indian Republic, all the freedom fighters will be given a millennium gift for travel of one journey by Rajdhani or Shatabdi train of choice from any station to any destination and back. This will be valid for the millennium year only.
Touching on the Railways proposed scheme to generate resources from non-traditional sources, Ms Banerjee said a task force, consisting of representatives of Railways and industry had made several recommendations.
The recommendations of the Task Force are now proposed to be implemented in a time-bound manner. These include:
Commercial utilisation of land and air space.
She also mentioned that the Railways had recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Housing and Urban Development Corporation for commercial utilisation of surplus railway lands in certain corridors. Some of the corridors identified for this purpose include, Delhi-Panipat, Kanpur-Lucknow, Bangalore-Mysore, Sealdah-Kalyani, Chandigarh-Ludhiana, Baroda-Ahmedabad and Vishakapatnam-Rajahmundry.
The Railways have also proposed to utilise its Right of Way covering 62,800 km passing through more than seven thousand stations for building a nation-wide broad band telecom and multimedia network by laying optic fibre cable. This would not only help in speedily modernising Railways own telecom infrastructure but also provide a much needed parallel nation-wide telecom infrastructure to various telecom operators and Internet Service Providers. This project is expected to generate considerable additional revenues for the Railways to finance developmental projects and safety related works.
Indian Railways are also firming up a plan for construction of 100 budget hotels and shopping complexes near different railway stations using surplus commercial land.
Expressing concern over the slippage of market share of Railways in goods movement, Ms Banerjee said her objective was to raise the share of traffic to 50 per cent during the first decade of the millennium from the existing 40 per cent. Outlining a multi-pronged new freight policy to achieve this target, Ms Banerjee said it would have the following elements:
High speed goods trains are slated to follow superfast trains with adequate safety precautions to ensure expeditious transit of select high value and perishable goods.
NEW DELHI, Feb 25 (PTI) the following are the highlights of the Railway Budget 2000-01 presented by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in Parliament today:
19 new trains, 11 extended
NEW DELHI, Feb 25 (PTI) The Railways will introduce 19 new trains, extend 11 trains and increase the frequency of five trains, including two Rajdhani expresses in 2000-2001, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced today.
The new trains are: Lucknow-Bhopal Express (bi-weekly), Bangalore-Shimoga Overnight Express (daily), Tirupati-Nagercoil Express (bi-weekly), Sealdah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express (bi-weekly), Jodhpur-Bangalore Express (weekly), Howrah-Purulia Express (daily), Ajmer-Bangalore Express (weekly), Sealdah-New Jalpaiguri Express (tri-weekly), Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananachal Express (tri-weekly), Okha-Dehradun Uttaranchal Express (weekly), Shalimar-Bankura Express, Kakinada-Visakhapatnam-Nagarsol link Express (bi-weekly), Ahmedabad-Nagpur Express (weekly), Sealdah-Amritsar superfast Express (weekly), Bandra Terminus-Gandhidham Express (by merging Bandra-Vadodara Sayajinagari Express and Vadodara-Gandhidham intercity express), Lucknow-Ballia-Chhapra Express, Varanasi-Baidyanath Dham Express (bi-weekly), Bikaner Suratgarh service and Bangalore-Puttaparthi service.
Ms Banerjee said Nizamuddin-Coimbatore Express which was announced in the last budget would start operations in March.
She said the frequency of Mumbai Rajdhani Express and August Kranti Rajdhani Express has been increased from six days a week to daily.
Other trains whose frequency has been increased are Visakhapatnam-Bangalore Express from four days to daily, Pune Howrah Azad Hind Express from two days to three days a week and Porbandar-Delhi Sarai Rohilla Express from weekly to bi-weekly.
Ms Banerjee also announced extension of Kurla-Ernakulam Netravati Express, Gorakhpur-Cochin Raptisagar Express, Bilaspur-Cochin Express and Indore-Cochin Express to Trivandrum, Bangalore-Madurai Express to Tuticorin, Patna-Rourkela Link Express to Bilaspur, Trivandrum-Rajkot Express to Hapa, Howrah-Trichy Express to Kanyakumari (on one day in a week), Pune-Ahmedabad Ahimsa Express to Gandhidham (one day a week), Jammu Tawi-Rajkot Express to Hapa and Rajkot-Bhopal Express to Jabalpur (two days a week).
She said extension of the Amritsar-Barauni Express to Kathiar and Sealdah-Kathiar Express to Barauni, which were announced in the last budget, would begin in March.
The minister also announced one pair of passenger service each between Gandhidham and Bhuj and Peddapalli-Karimnagar sections and extension of Mumbai Central-Gandhidham Kutch Express to Bhuj and rail bus service between Nadiad and Kapadvanj to Modasa on completion of gauge conversion and construction of new lines.
Five new MEMU services
Patna-Mokama section, Shalimar-Bankura section,
Chennai-Arakkonam-Renigunta section, Lucknow-Kanpur
section and Srikakulam-Visakhapatnam section and
three new DMU services Amritsar-Pathankot section,
Raichur-Gulbarga section and Erode-Trichy section
would be introduced during 2000-2001, Ms Banerjee said.
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