NEW DELHI: "Where is the budget?" the Opposition shouted as Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu wound up his 70-minute budget speech without announcing any revision in fares.
However, Prabhu, wearing a lemon sweater, who had quoted personalities ranging from Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Harivansh Rai Bachchan to Gautam Buddha during his speech, chose not to respond, and finished his speech at a breakneck speed reminiscent of a bullet train. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seen listening to him with rapt attention, was the first to congratulate him. Modi repeatedly thumped his desk along with other members of the treasury benches in appreciation of the proposals in the budget. He was also seen clapping when the Minister announced toilets in select railway stations for persons with disabilities. Opposition members were, however, conspicuous in their refusal to congratulate Prabhu, the only exception being Bijayant Panda of the Biju Janata Dal. There were at least four former Railway Ministers, present in the House during the Budget, including Ramvilas Paswan, Dinesh Trivedi and Sadanand Gowda.
Trinamool Congress' Mukul Roy listened to the speech from the visitor's gallery in the Lok Sabha while Paswan and Trivedi were both seen taking notes.Prabhu's wife and son were also in the visitor's gallery.
The Minister walked into the house at seven minutes to noon and made what many thought was a bulky speech, which he began by sharing some of his experiences as a Minister. 'Nav Arjan, Nav Manak and Nav Sanrachna (new revenue, new norm and new structure)' would be the three pillars on which my policy will lie, he said. He quoted Buddha saying that whenever one contemplates a journey, there are two mistakes one can make: not starting and not going all the way. While mostly serious, Prabhu could not resist a smile when he looked up at the media gallery to announce that journalists could now avail of a 50 per cent subsidy on rail tickets through e-booking.
Prabhu’s seven mantras
Augment carrying capacity to increase revenue
Eliminate all unmanned level crossings, for which innovative financing mechanism are being worked out to curb train accidents
Achieve Procurement and Consumption Efficiency by reducing energy consumption
Double average speeds of freight trains and increase the average speed of superfast mail/express trains by 25 kmph
Will commission 100 sidings and focus on freight terminals
Establish an accounting system where the outcomes can be tracked to inputs
Improve capacity on the existing high-density networks
A look at the numbers that matter in the rail budget
400 stations to be re-developed through PPP
400 railway stations to be equipped with wifi, 100 this year
408 ‘A-1’ and ‘A’ class stations to have e-catering facilities, up from 40
20,000 screens across 2,000 stations to display real-time info
11 Class-A stations to get disabled-friendly toilets this year
120 lower berths for senior citizens in every train, a 50% increase in quota
33% reservation for women in reserved quota
2-4 Deen Dayalu coaches in some long distance trains for unreserved travel with facility for potable drinking water and a higher number of mobile charging points
30,000 bio-toilets in the next financial year
74 more trains added under On-board Housekeeping Service
400 more trains to be covered soon
Make in India
Rs 50 crore for providing innovation grants to employees, startups and growth oriented small businesses
1st railway auto hub in Chennai to be inaugurated soon
9cr man days in 2017-18 and 14 crore man days in 2018-19 expected to be generated by work on broad gauge lines
17 states agree to form joint ventures with for construction of over-bridges
2,800kmof track to be commissioned next year
Rs 1,500cr to be saved by direct procurement of diesel in 2016-17
1000MW of solar power to be commissioned
2,000km to be electrified; outlay to be increased by 50 %