New Delhi: The Railway Budget was presented on Tuesday, the first by a Congress minister in 17 years. But it lacked the inimitable style of presentation of its predecessors Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mamata Banerjee. But in his workman-like style Pawan Kumar Bansal did present a budget which he calls realistic and others term pedestrian. The Railway Minister said, "I have tried to rationalise the costs."
Bansal, who had brought in effect an across the board hike in fares only last month, decided to not call this a fare hike. Despite deregulation of diesel prices, Railways will absorb a burden of Rs 850 crore for now.
The immediate effect will be on freight charges which will go up by five per cent from April 1. The focus of Railway Budget 2013, as expected was on passenger amenities including hygiene and safety.
A special safety plan is also expected to be prepared for ten years. The fear is that they will just stay in plans. The challenge is that the growth plan of Railways is still not clear. The first Congress minister to present the Railway Budget in 17 years has romantic notions of the strength of the railways.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may have called this a reformist and a realistic budget but the jury is still out on that. Bansal has diagnosed the ailment but what is missing is the road map to modernise the Railways and making it safe and sustainable.