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Laloo scores on twin tracks
More cash for revamp of lines

New Delhi, July 6: Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav appears to have done better than his predecessor Nitish Kumar in two key areas of budget-crafting: he has increased the allocation to the vital depreciation reserve fund used to replace and maintain railway lines and communication assets which have a crucial bearing on safety, and has reduced the outlay on the working expenses of the railways.

The interim railway budget presented by Nitish Kumar earlier this year had targeted a Rs 1,877-crore increase in the gross earnings of the railways over the previous year. However, this was more than wiped out by the Rs 1,990 crore leap in the “ordinary” working expenses projected for the year.

Nitish Kumar had reduced the outlay for the more useful depreciation reserve fund of the railways by Rs 367 crore from Rs 2,267 crore in 2003-04 to Rs 1,900 crore in the interim budget.

In contrast, Yadav's budget has restored the depreciation reserve fund to the Rs 2,267-crore level. This fund plays a key role as it can be used immediately, should the need arise, to undertake such crucial tasks as track renewals.

The requirement for ordinary working expenses has been scaled down to Rs 32,860 crore, which is Rs 100 crore less than Rs 32,960 allocated in the interim budget. The saving is creditable considering the fact that post-interim budget merger of 50 per cent DA with basic pay will entail an additional expenditure of Rs 740 crore and another Rs 160 crore extra cost will have to be borne by the railways due to the recent diesel price hike.

The gross traffic receipts for the current financial year are now estimated at Rs 44,902 crore which is Rs 420 crore higher than the interim budget.

With working expenses estimated at Rs 41,417 crore, net traffic receipts come to Rs 3,485 crore against Rs 3,232 crore of the interim budget.

With a sum of Rs 993 crore coming from net miscellaneous receipts, the net railway revenue works out to Rs 4,478 crore against Rs 4, 225 crore of the interim budget. After paying a dividend of Rs 3,605 crore, the railways will now be left with a surplus of Rs 873 crore.

Railway Board chairman R. K. Singh said the higher earnings for the railways will come from increased volumes.

Since the traffic in the first quarter of the current fiscal had already gone up by 7 million tonnes, it was realistic to expect a loading target of 580 million tonnes. This is expected to rake in Rs 28,745 crore, which is Rs 645 crore more than the interim budget.

Interestingly, the passenger earnings in Yadav’s budget have been scaled down to Rs 13,940 crore from the Rs 14,200-crore target of the interim budget as the 5.49 per cent anticipated growth rate is not expected to materialise.

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