Govt. may have to foot bill for rail safety fund

Somesh Jha NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 23, 2017 00:30 IST
UPDATED: OCTOBER 22, 2017 22:08 IST

Safe journey: The public utility is willing to spend unlimited funds on safety

As earnings fall, Railways knocks on Finance Ministry’s door

The Ministry of Railways may ask the Finance Ministry to fund its share of the railway safety fund this year as the public utility is staring at an earnings shortfall of at least ₹10,000 crore in 2017-18, sources said.

With earnings deficit, the Ministry of Railways may find it difficult to contribute its share towards the newly- constituted Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Rosh (RRSK) – a dedicated fund for critical safety-related works, a Ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

Earnings shortfall

The Indian Railways’ income stood at ₹80,519 crore till September compared with ₹76,405 crore till September last year. However, the actual income was 8.45% lower than the targeted earnings till September this year. The Railways had set a target of earning ₹1.88 lakh crore in 2017-18 against ₹1.65 lakh crore in 2016-17.

“We are looking at an earnings deficit of at least ₹10,000 crore by the end of this financial year. We may demand Finance Ministry to fund the entire amount towards RRSK for current financial year in the pre-budget meeting next month,” the Ministry official said. The Finance Ministry is scheduled to meet the officials of the Ministry of Railway on November 10 for pre-budget discussions to finalise the revised estimates for 2017-18 and budget estimates for 2018-19.

Safety fund

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced the setting up a special safety fund with a corpus of more than ₹1 lakh crore over a period of five years in Budget 2017-18. According to the plan, while the Finance Ministry would contribute ₹15,000 crore annually towards the fund, the Ministry of Railways would fund the balance ₹5,000 crore every year.

In the first six months of the current financial year, the Indian Railways had utilised a quarter of the safety fund as it had spent ₹5,031 crore from the RRSK. Although the Railways’ passenger and goods earnings had increased 4.5% and 8.4% respectively till September this year compared with the last year, its sundry earnings had declined sharply by 35.7% during this period.

Income from non-fare revenues, including land lease, advertising, PSU dividends and catering department, form part of the sundry earnings.

Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal had said in an interview to The Hindu last month that the utility was willing to spend unlimited funds on safety which would be a top priority for him. “In my working, there is no budget for safety. Whatever (fund) is required we will spend,” Mr. Goyal had said.

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry advised the Ministry of Railways to prioritise deploying RRSK funds on areas that reduce chances of human error and ensure training of safety staff.

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