Panel suggests reforms of Railways, says no separate budget
New Delhi: An official committee has recommended a whole set of reforms including entry of private players into railways, separation of off line activities from core business, passing on subsidies to the Centre and an end to the practice to a separate budget.
Holding that the railway finances were in a precarious situation, the committee headed by Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy, says that there is need not only to improve the internal resource generation and explore varied methods of financing but also to improve utilisation of available resources.
The committee, a brainchild Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has in its over 300 page report, says it does not recommend privatisation of Railways but railway unions have attacked the report saying it is a clear road map for privatisation of Railways which would endanger safety and increase financial burden.
“It does, however, endorse private entry, which is not ab initio but ab hinc — as this is already part of the Indian Railway policy — with the proviso of an independent regulator.
“This committee prefers use of the word liberalisation and not privatisation or deregulation, as both the latter are apt to misinterpretation,” it said.
In a major recommendation, it has proposed separation of activities like running of hospitals, schools, catering, real estate development, manufacturing of locomotives, coaches and wagons from the core business of running trains.
State governments should be asked to entirely fund Government Railway Police (GRP) and the general managers should have the freedom to choose between private security guards and RPF for security on trains.
As a way forward beyond five years, the committee envisages three points of view that existing production units will be exposed to competition from private sector and to face competition the units may be placed under a special purpose vehicle known as Indian Railways Manufacturing Company.
“Once the changes of the first five years are implemented, including the resolution of the social cost issue, the Railway Budget should be phased out with gross budgetary support to Indian Railways mentioned as a paragraph in the Union Budget and no more.