February 27, 2010

Train Chale Chuk Chuk...............

Hi friends,this is a time for budget Information.On 24th feb. railway budget is being declared but nothing new we saw in its acting as changing face of railway.For a Railway Budget that promised to introduce an ambitious 10-year plan dubbed Vision 2020, Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee’s offering was strangely lacking in foresight and long-term measures. None of the initiatives she presented can be pointed to as clearly counterproductive. However, they seem a scattershot combination of populist measures rather than a cohesive strategy.
The market’s reaction says as much, with rail stocks plummeting in the aftermath of the budget. And with West Bengal assembly elections a little over a year away and a large number of the new projects given to the state it becomes difficult to avoid the conclusion that she has carried on the venerable tradition of using her position to cement her political base.
There are a few promising measures. The boosting of local train networks in metros like Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai is welcome, as is the prospect of better connectivity in the north-east and to Bangladesh. But these are only pointers to what the budget should, in fact, have been a comprehensive attempt to improve infrastructure for boosting economic activity. Setting up multi-functional hospitals and insurance facilities for licensed porters among the highlights of Banerjee’s budget are well and good as ancillary measures. But corporate social responsibility cannot replace the core business of the Railways, creating economic linkages.
Banerjee’s decision to maintain passenger and freight fares at the same level there have been in fact a few cuts here and there is problematic as well. While some amount of fare subsidisation is inevitable, there is an urgent need to bring them closer to a rational level. Without it, budget promises such as new trains and extending the rail network seem dubious. Lowering receipts while increasing outlays is not the ideal means to balance financial requirements. And that is the single largest problem with this budget. Initiatives and projects have been launched without due consideration of how they are to be operationalised. A special task force for clearing investment proposals within 100 days seems a significant step forward on the face of it. But it becomes less so when considerations of how to attract that investment given that Banerjee’s populist measures make for a less than efficient business model crop up. Despite purporting to launch a decade of growth, the one thing this budget lacks is vision.

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