oppn parties Prabhu Presents a Sensible Budget

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  • Amit Shah's comment on Hindi as the unifying language draws the ire of MK Stalin and Siddaramaiah. Stalin says the country is India not Hindia
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  • Pakistan raises white flag on LoC to claim bodies of dead soldiers
  • India beat Bangladesh by 5 runs to lift the U-19 Asia Cup
  • A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court will examine the amendments to the SC/ST act made after an apex court order that 'diluted' the provisions and which were reinstatd by the amendment
  • Delhi government decides to re-implement the odd-even system of traffic management from November 4 to 15
  • UP to discontinue law that allows the state government to pay the income tax dues of ministers
  • Anand Sharma of the Congress to replace P Chidambaram on the parliamentary committee on home affairs
Sunni Wakf Board and Nirvani Akhara write to the Supreme Court for a negotiated settlement to the Ayodhya dispute
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Prabhu Presents a Sensible Budget

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
The angry shouting by MP’s that took place when Suresh Prabhu ended his budget speech told the whole story. Prabhu has presented a very sensible and forward looking budget that has eschewed populism and looks to manage rail resources in a tight and prudent manner. The MP’s were angry as Pradhu had not announced any new trains â€" as many of them would have petitioned him to. But where is the money? The minister has set a precedent â€" it is the first time that no new trains have been announced in the rail budget.

The emphasis is on optimum utilization of existing resources, transparency and monetization of assets. A road map has been created for the development of the railways in the next five years and during this period the minister seeks to invest 8.5 lakh crore. This money he proposes to get from various sources, including the private sector under PPP route. He could have increased passenger fares by at least 10 % to reduce cross subsidization from freight charges. That would have given him the cushion to rationalize freight charges and bring more volumes. He has begun the process of digitizing the assets inventory, which will ensure optimum use and induct transparency.

The emphasis is also on providing facilities like more toilets, better stations, wi-fi at stations, security for women passengers, better and increased drinking water facilities and better food for passengers. Some elements of PM Modi’s Swachh Bharat abhiyan come in as the minister said that a Swachh Railways will ensure a Swachh Bharat. The minister proposes to train frontline staff in soft skills so that the passengers feel welcome. He has also increased the advance ticket booking time to 120 days in order to end the tout menace.

Where the minister has missed out is in taking this opportunity to corporatize the railways. He could have broken the utility into several companies like the Konkan Railway. That would have brought in much needed funds through share sale and would have professionalized the utility. It would have also meant that it would have ceased to be a government department. Perhaps, it would also have made his post redundant.

Prabhu has said that everything cannot be done in the first year. But well begun is half done. He has begun well. Let us hope he continues to go beyond populist measures and nurses back the railways to the pink of health. It is a tough call, but Prabhu has shown steps can be taken if the will is there.