No trains in the current budget and amenities get big boost
GN Bureau | February 26, 2015
Even while invoking the almighty ‘prabhu’ on bring his ministry back on rails; Suresh Prabhu unveiled a five-point programme on reforms and governance.
As he presented the railway budget for 2015 Prabhu announced the operating ratio target of 88.5 per cent for the next fiscal. “I asked, Hey Prabhu! How will all this happen,” the minister said during the beginning of his budget speech to the amusement of those in attendance.
Operating ratio is the amount of money spent to earn every Rs 100 and is a key indicator of railways financial health. The operating ratio target for the current financial year was 91.8 per cent.
Prabhu said his ministry will work on five key “drivers of action” – adopting a medium term perspective planning including a new White Paper; building partnerships with PSUs and funding agencies; Leveraging funding opportunities including Pension Funds; revamping management practices and systems; and setting standards for governance and transparency.
The rail ministry will spend over Rs 8.5 lakh crore over the next five years in a host of areas including capacity augmentation, modernization, passenger amenities and safety but will not hike passenger fares, Prabhu announced, highlighting the political sensitivity associated with tinkering with railway fares.
For a change the minister resisted the temptation to announce new trains or extension of services in his budget for 2015-16. He also did not increase passenger fares.
This is perhaps the first time in many years that the railways have not announced any new train in the budget. The minister however assured his colleagues in parliament that he will take requests from all MPs over the next few days and review them before announcing any new train.
Prabhu also announced a slew of passenger facilities including mobile application for complaints, water vending machines in major stations, CCTVs cameras in some long-distance trains and EMUs.
The railway minister also announced that surplus coaches from trains which are running on low capacity will be rationalised and added on lines which have high density.
Meanwhile, the daily passenger capacity of Indian railways is projected to increase from 21 million to 31 million in the next one-year, while freight capacity is expected to jump 50% from 1 billion tonnes to 1.5 billion tonnes.
Freight rates were, however, hiked in general barring high-speed diesel which was lowered by 1%. Rates were hiked by 0.8% for LPG, kerosene, 0.8% for iron & steel; 2.7% for cement, 10% for urea and 6.3% for coal.
Struggling with rationing and prioritising available supplies amid the acute Covid-19 vaccine shortage, the BrihanMumbai municipal corporation (BMC) has floated a global tender for supply of 1 crore doses, even as it has announced a walk-in vaccination campaign next week for select categories of citizens.
Expressing regret that despite being the largest producer of vaccines in the world things have fallen apart in India, Ashok Seth, a Padma Bhushan awardee and chairman of Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, has said that the focus needs to be on percentage and not the number of population vaccinated.
In Maharashtra, the epicentre of India’s devastating second wave, several NGOs and civil society organisations have been at work to combat the pandemic – by spreading awareness about precautions, by helping the slum-dwellers book appointment for vaccine, by providing meals to the marginalised a
The cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed the landmark of 17 crore on Monday as the Phase 3 of the nationwide vaccination drive expands further. India is the fastest country to administer 17 crore Covid vaccine doses – China took 119 days and USA 115 days
India is battling the second wave of Covid-19 and infections are spreading into the interiors of the country, says Dr Anurag Bhadouria, National Spokesperson, Samajwadi Party. It is precipitated by the elections in five states, the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar and also panchayat elections in many states, he says
The CoWIN system, the overarching digital platform for citizens seeking appointment for the Covid-19 vaccine, is introducing a new four-digit security code” in the application from Saturday to minimise a peculiar error and subsequent inconvenience to citizens. “It has been notic