After over a decade the government is ready to invest extra money into the Railways for critical safety upgrades by creating a special fund. The five-year, Rs 1 lakh crore Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK). This will be considering a long-pending wish of the railway passenger in the wake of a recent spate of accidents. The cash in-flow has remained on the lengthy wish-list that the Railways has been submitting to the Finance Ministry regularly for years, including during the UPA tenure.
This time the Finance Ministry has given the Railways Rs 55,000 crore for 2017-18 as Gross Budgetary Support — the highest ever, that too without a separate Rail Budget. The first chunk of Rs 20,000 crore for the RRSK will be taken out of that, while the rest will be conventional capital expenditure. Of the Rs 55,000 crore, Rs 15,000 crore will be kept aside for the RRSK. The Railways will have to pump in the remaining Rs 5,000 crore for the year from its own pocket, as per reports from The Indian Express.
According to other media reports, in the case of the previous special safety fund of Rs 17,000 crore in 2001, the Railways, under Nitish Kumar, had levied safety surcharge on passengers to raise Rs 5,000 crore, with the Finance Ministry granting Rs 12,000 crore.
Early this year, the Railways had sought around Rs 60,000 crore as Gross Budgetary Support from the government for next year but the request was turned down, with the Finance Ministry initially agreeing to pay Rs 48,000 crore. However, sources said, that was not adequate to set up the special safety fund.
Considering a series of unfortunate events pertaining to railway safety, there is still a lot that remains to be done in terms of refurbishing of the Railways’ safety standards.