New Delhi, Aug 26 (Calcutta Tube) A parliamentary panel, mandated to examine Indian Railways’ functioning, has scoffed at Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s promise to build 1,000 km of tracks this fiscal and 25,000 km by 2020.
The panel, headed by T.R. Baalu of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), doubts the ministry’s claim, saying the railways have been able to add just 10,419 km of tracks in the last 60 years since 1950 at an average rate of barely 174 km a year and it may not be possible for it to undo its past record by building tracks at a snail’s pace.
The ministry, however, has expressed confidence that it will be able to keep the promise made by Banerjee on building the tracks.
‘We will certainly keep our promises of building 1,000 km of track this fiscal,’ a top railway ministry official told IANS.
He pointed out that Banerjee renewed her promise last Thursday, while replying to the Lok Sabha debate on demand for supplementary grant for Indian Railways for 2010-11.
The official said the minister reiterated her promise in response to a dig by the parliamentary committee which in a recent report said the target was ‘too ambitious’.
‘The committee is concerned to note that the target of 1,000 km new lines for 2010-11 is a very ambitious one, as railways had 53,596 km of tracks in 1950 and after a span of 58 years, it could be increased only to 64,015 km, adding just 10,419 km at an annual average of only 180 km,’ the report said.
‘Moreover, during 2009-10, the Railways was able to construct only 250 km of new lines,’ said the report, adding ‘the committee, therefore, urge the ministry to intensify their preparedness to ensure the target that they have set for construction of new lines during 2010-11.’
The committee also scoffed at the railway budget for allocating an outlay of only Rs.7,193 crore for laying 1,000 km of track in 2010-11, while it had spent Rs.4,271 crore to build 250 km of lines in 20009-10.
‘The Committee fail to understand that how the ministry will be able to do a work of laying down 1,000 km of new lines, four times bigger than the last year work of laying down 250 km of lines in a budget, which is barely 168 percent more and less than the last year’s budget,’ the report said.
‘The committee is constrained to consider it as bad budgeting and desires that the Railways should be more realistic in projecting their estimates,’ the report said, adding ‘the committee apprehends that considering the previous trend, the physical target would later have to be revised downward.’
(Rana Ajit can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)