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Niti Aayog suggests doing away with Rail Budget

By Newsd
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Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu with his deputy Manoj Sinha (Live Mint)

The NDA government is seeking the opinion of the railway ministry on scrapping presentation of the annual Railway Budget. In a 20-page note to the Prime Minister’s Office, Niti Aayog argued the exercise has failed to come of any use to the sector and has become a “mechanism to announce popular measures”.

Titled “Dispensing with the Rail Budget”, Niti Aayog—formerly the Planning Commission of India—recommends setting up a committee of officials from the finance minister and Indian railways to draft a plan as to how to proceed. The note was jointly authored by economist Bibek Debroy and officer of special duty Kishore Desai.

“The Railway Budget became a mechanism to announce popular measures, new trains, new routes, new rolling-stock manufacturing factories etc., with no concomitant focus on addressing Railways’ structural requirements, implementation of the ‘grand’ announcements, or funding needs,” the note reads. It suggests declaring the rail budget through annual reports.

According to sources in the Rail Bhawan, the department of economic affairs, the finance secretary and the Cabinet secretary will take part in deliberations on this issue, reports the Indian Express.

The Railway Budget was introduced by the British in 1924 to segregate costs of the facility used by rich and poor and physically unified the country. It acknowledges that doing away with this Budget will reduce the significance of the railway ministry, and possibly primacy of its place in government.