The CPM Himachal Pradesh state secretariat has denounced the Railway Budget 2013-14 which reflects gross inconsistencies and contradictions camouflaged in deceptive postures. The rail minister has also disappointed the people of Himachal Pradesh for not making any budgetary provisions for realising the much propounded Bhanupali–Bilaspur rail line. There is only rhetoric in the budget with nothing concrete on record. The Congress party in Himachal Pradesh has failed to mobilise its leadership at the centre to help the state in expanding the rail network in Himachal Pradesh.
CPM leader and Shimla Deputy Mayor Tikender Panwar blamed that just one month before the Budget, Railway ministry hiked the passenger fare by 21% to be able to tell the nation that he has not burdened the common people through this budget. But still he did not spare wholly the passenger fare in the budget putting indirect burden on the people. The increase in reservation charges and fuel surcharges will have an impact of hike in passenger fare and the fuel charge adjustment policy indicated by the railway minister has kept the door open for interim fare hike through executive order. Further the programme for putting in place so called independent regulatory authority reiterated by Railway Minister in his budget speech makes clear the evil design to completely deregulate railway fares in the days to come like petrol or diesel prices.
Secondly fuel surcharge hike and 5% hike in freight rate will fuel the already high inflationary pressure further increasing the burden on the people. The Budget stressed for promoting PPP in many areas of maintenance and development work provoking backdoor privatization of various services.
The budget targeted to achieve an operating ratio to 87%. But resource mobilization roadmap reflected in the budget clearly shows that such so called improvement in the operating ratio will be endeavoured to be achieved by scaling down the expenditure budgeted earlier which will finally affect the revenues as well as services. In fact the figure of revised estimate of the previous budget, the downward revision being undertaken by the present Ministry, clearly reveals that such strategy of scaling down of budgeted expenditure on various counts including capital expenditure will continue in the current year as well.
Inconsistencies and contradictions galore in the 2013-14 budget as well. How the ambitious target on goods traffic and freight earnings can be met, when investment for procurement of wagons and wagon-manufacturing is being scaled down as reflected in budget statement? How the target for passenger traffic as well as revenues could be met when passenger-coach-and locomotive acquisition plan is scaled down. Only avenue will be further increase in the freight charge and passenger fare, which remained untold.
The Railway Budget 2013-14, drawn within the framework of neo-liberal policy regime has nothing to offer to the people except increased burden and deterioration in amenities. The CPIM calls upon the people of the state to expose the much propounded pre rail budget exercise of the government in the interests of the people of the country and the state of Himachal Pradesh.
Opposition Bhartiya Janta party (BJP) also criticized railway budget and blamed state government to fail to get the share of Himachal Pradesh from center government. Party spokesperson Ganesh Dutt blame center Govt for partial attitude towards Himachal Pradesh. He alleged that despite being a border state, center is ignoring expansion of railway line in Himachal Pradesh.
However, Himachal Vidhan Sabha Speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail hailed the announcement of Railway Minister Pawan Bansal for undertaking the survey for construction of railway line between Palampur and Dharamshala in the railway budget.
He said that he had met the Railway Minister recently and had pressed for construction of railway line between the Palampur and Dharamshala to facilitate the daily commuters and said that the line would prove a boon for the tourist industry of the region. He said that present UPA Government had given great imputes to the social and economic development of the State.