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Lok Sabha passes railways’ demand for grants

SureshPrabhu

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed by voice vote the demand for grants by railways for the 2016-17 fiscal, with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announcing that the government will create a Rs.1 lakh crore safety fund to enhance safety measures.

Responding to a debate, Prabhu said moves were on to restructure the Indian Railways, which will bring about more efficiency, but stressed that it cannot be achieved without cooperation from all.

Prabhu said his ministry has sent a proposal to the finance ministry for approval.

He said the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh will be a non-lapsable fund and maintained that the railways will also review financial norms to try and make the projects viable.

He said the theme of this year’s rail budget was to bring the railways back on track and assured that the government was taking steps regarding the safety aspect.

During the discussion, the Congress criticised the government for what it said was indulgence in gimmicks and said more rationalisation in the railways functioning was needed.

Initiating the debate, Congress leader in the house Mallikarjun Kharge opposed the proposed bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, saying that the huge funds earmarked for the project could have been diverted to areas where there is more need.

He said the ambitious project will be implemented at a cost of Rs.1 lakh crore, implying that each km of track will cost Rs.200 crore.

Kharge, who was railway minister for a short period, said the government was only indulging in gimmicks.

Moreover, he said, a study by the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad said the bullet train can be economically feasible only if there were 100 trips daily.

Kharge said 64 people died in railway accidents in 2015-16, higher than 54 in 2013-14.

He said the government had in 2015 announced setting up of a ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshan Kosh’ of Rs.1 lakh crore and asked how much funds have come and how much have been spent on passenger safety.

He also accused the central government of not releasing funds for the Bengaluru metro project in Congress-ruled Karnataka.

Participating in the debate, Yogi Adityanath of the Bharatiya Janata Party said the railway budget for the first time rose above political considerations.

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