Industry bodies have shown thumbs up to the maiden budget of railway minister Suresh Prabhu by hailing it as practical and transformational budget. They have commended the minister for setting a long-term vision with a strategy for transforming Indian railways over the next five years.
The Bangalore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCIC) has welcomed the five-point vision rolled out by Prabhu that includes adopting a medium-term perspective, Building Partnerships, Leveraging additional resources, Revamping management practices, systems, Setting standards for Governance and Transparency.
The Chamber also welcomed the Railways for setting a four-point goal vis-à-vis delivering a sustained improvement in customer experience; making railways a safer means of travel; modernise infrastructure of railways and expand capacity and finally make railways financially self-sustainable.
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A N Chandramouli, President - BCIC said, "Overall, the Budget looks more operational and practical given the kind of very limited elbow space in terms of shrinking revenues. Some open-ended announcements, such as commissioning of 1,200 km fresh lines this year, introduction of nine hi-speed corridors, high speed trains, wagon-leasing scheme for Private players, involvement of ISRO on safety initiatives, revamping of Railways through PPP Model and outsourcing cleaning services to private agencies are very positive measures."
S Sampathraman, President, FKCCI has stated that the Railway Budget is the first Budget of the Government on consolidation, sustainability and safety. It also underlines the need for efficiency, transparency and governing standards to raise the railways to the level of global standards. The focus is mainly on growth, safety, security, cleanliness and not on populism. The object is to make the Indian Railways self-sustaining in the next few years.
The Government proposes to use the insurance and provident funds for capital requirements. The minister has also stressed upon the completion of pending projects and increasing railway services, not to speak of more connectivity. In fact the main object is to develop railways as an infrastructural source by consolidating sustainability and safety. He has not raised the railway fares. This is obviously the benefit of lower international crude oil prices.
"It is not a populist Budget but certainly a road map for future stability and growth," Sampathraman said.
He has also hailed the budget for measures like expansion of freight handling capacity, Public Private Participation, joint venture with private sector companies for power projects, new projects for ports and mines, women safety, modern safety systems, dedicated freight corridors, auto freight rebate scheme for empty wagons, review of wagon leasing and other schemes, introduction of more high speed trains, upgradation of rolling stock for higher speeds, and measures for technology upgradation among others.
"The Railway Budget is a determined effort to make the Indian Railway customer focussed assuring both the passengers and industrial consumers of much better services with the help of technology," Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) said.
Big increase in the Plan size of over Rs 100,000 crore would lead to a positive impact on other sectors related with the Railways. "The Budget shows that for the first time the government has started treating the Railways as a commercial enterprise without using it as a political vehicle. It is rather being used as a development vehicle," Assocham President Rana Kapoor added.