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Budget 1998-99
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Speech of Shri Nitish Kumar
Introducing the Railway Budget, 1999-2000
on 25th February 1999 - Part I(a)

Mr. Speaker Sir,

I rise to present the Budget Estimates for 1999-2000 for the Indian Railways.

Introduction

This government is about to complete one year in office. During this period, a "Status Paper" and "White Paper", have been placed before the Parliament, to help appreciate the financial position, shortage of resources and the various challenges and difficulties faced by Indian Railways. I am happy to report that on some of these issues, we have taken concrete steps as I shall presently explain in the speech.
The year 1998-99 has been a difficult one, not only for the Railways, but perhaps for the whole country. Our industrial and financial growth have been affected by the global financial crisis and various other difficulties, impacting the Railway system also. Freight loading has not been as per our expectations. On the other hand, expenditure has gone up considerably as a result of the Fifth Central Pay Commission's recommendations. Mr. Speaker, Sir, such circumstances would have discouraged any other organisation but I am happy to say that without being disheartened by such adverse situations, we succeeded in achieving many of our objectives. Notwithstanding the constraint of resources, we have enhanced passenger carrying capacity of trains by attaching two or more coaches in 100 popular trains. Thus, by adding 440 additional coaches, we generated carrying capacity of more than 29,000 passengers per day. Apart from this, 124 new trains were introduced, the run of 32 trains was extended and the frequency of 32 trains increased. I am happy to state that all announcements made regarding passenger trains in 1998-99 with the exception of one, have been fulfilled.

"1999-2000 - Passenger Year"

Sir, the progress made in passenger services during this year has not made us complacent. I propose to declare the year 1999-2000 as the "Passenger Year" and take still greater strides in this direction. It will be our earnest effort to not only provide reliable and better services but it will also be our endeavour that our staff behave more courteously and the passengers get reservation easily. We will make efforts to make at least one station in each Division as model station where higher level of passenger facilities will be provided and to upgrade some selected passenger terminals. I would like that improved amenities are provided on all passenger trains but, in the first phase, special emphasis will be given to the maintenance of 30 Mail and Express trains, apart from Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, so as to ensure that there are no complaints in this respect.

Sir, during the "Passenger Year", our efforts to control the activities of the touts will be greatly intensified. To begin with, in the first phase, our effort will be to make Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai free of touts. We are aware that this is a very difficult task but all necessary steps will be taken to achieve this.

Passenger Amenities

One of our most important goals has been to continuously improve passenger amenities. In the current year also, we have taken a number of steps which I would like to mention :-
A "Customer Care Institute" is shortly being opened in Delhi with a view to improve politeness and courtesy in the behaviour of the staff like ticket collectors, booking clerks etc., who come in direct contact with the public.
Delhi, Secunderabad, Calcutta and Mumbai Passenger Reservation Systems (PRS) have been linked with the network, and Chennai will also get connected to this network by 31.3.99. With this, facility will now be available to get reservation by any train from any of the PRS terminals in the country.
In the last Budget, the norm for setting up a PRS centre was reduced from 300 to 200 reservations per day. As a result, 75 additional PRS centres have been set up, raising the total number of centres to more than 400.
With the establishment of "Rail Net" and the computers provided at 150 stations, it will be possible to monitor passenger complaints at
the Divisional, Zonal and Railway Board's levels. This will enable expeditious disposal of complaints.
Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) has been extended to 44 stations to provide real-time information to the public regarding availability of reservations and arrival/departure of important trains.
Passengers are always keen to learn about the factual position of the running of trains. For this, a successful trial has been carried out on Western and Northern Railway and based on the experience gained a "National Train Enquiry System" is expected to be established next year to provide real-time information regarding running of any train from any location.
A pilot project for providing "Tele Booking" reservation facility at New Delhi Reservation Complex has been launched.
Indian Railways has launched its 'Web Page' on the Internet which will permit access from anywhere in the world, to information regarding train schedules and connections, including tourist trains.
'Tatkal Scheme' has been introduced successfully for more than 100 important long distance trains. This has enabled passengers to get
reservation at short notice. This facility will be further extended.
It was announced in 1998-99, that in eight trains pantry cars will be introduced. This work has almost been completed. We plan to introduce pantry car services in eight more trains in 1999-2000.
We plan to introduce a 'Rail Yatri Magazine' during the year. This will be available in the trains for reading by the passengers. Apart from providing information about railways, this will also provide information about tourist spots, special tourist programmes, articles on health and interesting topics for the entertainment and knowledge of the passengers.

Safety

Sir, whenever we talk about passenger services on Indian Railways, the safety of passengers is our foremost concern. The disastrous and unprecedented accident at Khanna is still deeply etched in my mind and continues to move and unnerve me. This tragedy has raised questions regarding several aspects of railway safety. It is imperative that we find early solutions to them. This matter has been given serious thought by the Railway Ministry and a plan has been drawn up for improving safety. I would also like to inform this august House that a one-man Commission of enquiry under the chairmanship of a sitting judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice G.C.Garg, is being constituted to enquire into the Khanna accident.
There is no doubt that, inspite of a significant increase in passenger and goods traffic in the last 50 years, statistically the number of accidents have come down. However, we cannot afford to be complacent, and in view of the increasing pressure on existing assets, we are taking special steps. I would now like to mention some of the important ones.
This year, the drivers and guards of trains running on all "A" and "B" routes have been given 'walkie talkie' sets for making emergency contacts. Since this effort has proved to be very successful and useful, it has been decided that this facility will be made available in all passenger trains by 31st March 1999. It will be provided in the goods trains in the second phase, next year.
To prevent accidents due to human failure, track circuiting is being provided carried out every year in a planned manner, and almost 600 stations are getting covered every year. Track circuiting will be completed from 'Fouling Mark' to 'Fouling Mark' on 'A', 'B' & 'C' routes by 31st March, 1999.
To prevent overshooting of signal by the driver by mistake, a pilot project of a Radio-based Automatic Train Control System in Delhi-Mathura section has been included in the Budget. After a successful trial, this will be further extended.
Several accidents have occurred due to rail fractures and weld failures. In order to reduce this, intensive checking is being done with the help of Ultra Sonic Flaw Detectors (USFD). It has also been decided to purchase two high speed Self-propelled Ultrasonic Rail Testing (SPURT) cars. Further, pressure is being exerted on the rail manufacturers to ensure quality in steel and correct manufacturing procces and to suggest ways for making them more effective.

Accidents at Level Crossings

In the last decade, there has been no significant reduction in the number of accidents taking place at level crossings. Most of these accidents are due to the carelessness of the road users. This problem can be solved only by providing road overbridges/underbridges. However, the situation can also be improved if unmanned level crossings are converted into manned level crossings. Out of a total of 40,517 level crossings, 24,359 are unmanned. Rs. 2,200 cr are required to convert all these level crossings to manned level crossings. Although it is essential to have road overbridges/ underbridges at busy level crossings, this would involve enormous resources, as generally Rs. 8 cr to Rs. 10 cr are required for constructing one road overbridge and more than 1,000 such bridges would be required as per the norms. State Governments are also required to share the cost of these works. However, resources of this magnitude are neither available with the Indian Railways nor with the State Governments. Hon'ble Members will surely appreciate the enormity of the problem. Railway Ministry have decided to create a Fund for converting unmanned level crossings to manned level crossings and for construction of road overbridges/underbridges at busy level crossings. A separate Plan Head will also be created in order to focus attention on the funding for such works and monitoring their progress. Adequate funds will be contributed so that maximum number of level crossings can be converted in a planned manner in future.
To strengthen safety in this area, I also seek the assistance of Hon'ble Members. They can now recommend conversion of unmanned level crossings to manned level crossings under "Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme". This has been approved by the Ministry of Programme Implementation. Railways have decided that they will convert as many unmanned level crossings to manned level crossings as are done through funds provided by the Hon'ble Members in their constituencies.

Railway Recruitment Board

Action has already been taken on all the announcements made regarding Railway Recruitment Boards in the last Budget. The recruitment process has been made transparent and the possibility of corrupt practices has been eliminated. Experience shows that in the selection procedure, there was possibility of favouritism during interviews. In order to eliminate even the slightest possibility of favouritism, I have decided that for most of the categories, the system of interviews after the written examination will be done away with. Based on the results of this change, we will continue with our endeavour to further improve the process of selection so that selection of meritorious candidates for the Indian Railways is ensured.

Group 'D' Recruitment in Railways

After the success of our efforts made in the selection procedure of Group 'C', we will now endeavour to improve the Group 'D' selection procedure. Presently, the direct recruitment of Group 'D' staff in Railways is done only through interviews. To streamline the recruitment procedure and make it more transparent, I have decided that selection of Group 'D' (unskilled) category should be through an objective written test of appropriate standard. In this procedure there will be no interviews and selection will be done on the basis of marks obtained in the written examination, subject to candidates being physically fit. It has also been decided that this recruitment will be done by a unit of the Railway Recruitment Board, which will be headed by a senior railway official. I am confident that with this modified procedure, direct recruitment of Group 'D' will become fully impartial and provide suitable and capable employees to the railways.

Upgradation of Technology

It has been the endeavour of Indian Railways to constantly upgrade its technology. Recently a state-of-the-art 3-phase 6000 HP electric
locomotive has been manufactured at Chittranjan Locomotive Works, which is an unprecedented achievement amongst the developing countries.

Contribution to improvement in Environment

Railways are alive to environmental issues and to show our commitment in this direction, it has been decided that the sale of cigarettes/bidis in railway platforms and passenger trains will be banned from 5th June, 1999, the "Environment Day".
Afforestation drive on railway land will be started with zeal. This will ensure proper utilisation of available land and also prevent encroachment. It will apart from meeting the need of wooden sleepers, also benefit Railways financially in future.

Commercial utilisation of Land

Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation has got the necessary approvals for commercial utilisation of land and air space for mobilising resources. We are hopeful that through such efforts we will be able to mop up sufficient resources for developmental works in other parts of the country.

Operating and Financial Performance in 1997-98

Now I would like to briefly describe the operating performance of Indian Railways in the last financial year, 1997-98. The Railways have moved 429.30 million tonnes of originating revenue earning traffic which is almost equal to the target of 430 million tonnes. In 1997-98, Railways financial performance was also satisfactory. Gross Traffic Receipts of the Railways recorded a growth of 17.6%, from Rs. 24,319 cr in 1996-97 to Rs. 28,589 cr in 1997-98. Total Working Expenses increased from Rs. 21,001 cr to Rs. 25,876 cr, mainly due to the implementation of the recommendations of the Fifth Central Pay Commission. After accounting for some reliefs relating to the previous years, based on the recommendation of the Railway Convention Committee, Railways paid a dividend of Rs. 1,489 cr to the General Revenues. Railway's Operating Ratio also improved from the revised estimate target of 91% to 90.9%. Fund balances of the Railways increased by Rs. 194.67 cr and became Rs. 3,565 cr. Along with market borrowings, Plan outlay was Rs. 8,239 cr, which was marginally short of the Revised Estimate of Rs. 8,403 cr.

Revised Estimates, 1998-99

Sir, unlike 1997-98, the current financial year has not been very favourable. While the loading of Petroleum products, Fertilisers and "Other Goods" is higher than the budgetary target as well as the actuals of last year for the first nine months, the reduced demand of core sector commodities such as Coal, Food-grains, Iron & Steel, Cement and Iron Ore etc. has affected the railways' freight traffic. Against the budgetary forecast of 450 million tonnes, it is expected that Railways will achieve a loading of around 424 million tonnes. However, our efforts to increase loading in the remaining part of the year will continue. With the drop in freight traffic, it is expected that there will be a shortfall of Rs. 1,056 cr in the earnings as compared to the target for the year, despite increase in Passenger, Other Coaching and Sundry earnings. The budgeted target of clearing Rs. 260 cr from Traffic Suspense has been maintained in the Revised Estimates. Gross Traffic Receipts have been scaled down from the Budget Estimates of Rs. 31,472 cr to Rs. 30,416 cr.
At the same time, as a result of the recommendations of the Fifth Central Pay Commission, an increase of Rs. 1,530 cr is expected in the payment of pensionary dues, which has now increased to Rs. 3,830 cr from Rs. 2,300 cr. To meet the shortfall in earnings, a saving of Rs. 345 cr has been effected in non-plan expenditure. Plan expenditure has also been re-assessed and kept at Rs. 8,755 cr as against the budgeted outlay of Rs. 9,500 cr. It is proposed to withdraw Rs. 1,313 cr from the Railway Fund balances to meet the additional pensionary liabilities. With this, the Fund balances are estimated to be Rs. 2,252 cr. A provision of Rs. 1,752 cr has been made for payment of dividend.
I would like to assure the Hon'ble Members that the Plan expenditure has been regulated in such a manner as to ensure that the
progress of safety and other targeted works is not allowed to suffer. However, to achieve this, additional market borrowing of Rs.180 cr by the Indian Railway Finance Corporation would be necessary. With this the total market borrowings will increase from Rs. 2,900 cr to Rs. 3,080 cr.
 

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