Noting that inordinate delay in land acquisition was slowing down key railway projects, a parliamentary committee has recommended amendment to the Railway Act, 1989, to make the process easier and get more budgetary support from the Ministry of Finance and Planning Commission.
The Standing Committee on Railways, chaired by DMK MP T R Baalu, expressed concern over the increase in the number of delayed projects from 348 in 2012 to 368 in 2013.
Of the 368 pending projects, only 42 were in advanced stages of completion and the remaining ones at various stages of implementation.
“We do not accept the oft-repeated explanations such as delay in land acquisition and forestry clearances, adverse law and order situation, and other market forces for the delay in executing projects,” the committee said.
To solve the problem of land acquisition, the 31-member panel felt that, if required, the Railways Act, 1989, should be suitably amended to make the acquisition process easier and avoid inordinate delays.
It also took serious note of the fund crunch for the national-level railway projects and asked the Ministry of Finance to review the situation urgently.
“It is equally disturbing to note that the Railways has a throw-forward liability of around `4 lakh crore for their ongoing works and rolling stock.
“The main reason for delays is stated to be fund constraint. The (financial) support from the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission has been far from adequate,” the panel said and added that the gross budgetary support earmarked for the Railways ought to be supplemented suitably.
It called upon the Ministry of Railways to consider every aspect of a project at the time of sanction and asked it to take concrete steps to resolve the procedural hurdles, to ensure speedy expansion of railway infrastructure in the country. The Railway Ministry had sought a budgetary support of `3,16,892 crore for the 12th Plan but was allotted only `1,94,221 crore.
During 2012-13 and 2013-14, the budgetary support to the ministry were `24,000 crore and `26,000 crore, respectively, less than even the proportionate yearly approved budgetary support.