The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.
Raj Ranjan, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur
The theme of the Railway Budget 2016 is : Overcoming challenges – Reorganize, Restructure Rejuvenate Indian Railways – ‘Chalo, Milkar Kuch Naya Karen’.Three pillars of the strategy i.e. Nav Arjan – New revenues, Nav Manak – New norms, Nav Sanrachna – New Structures.
When an organisation is at helm of a professional, changes are bound to happen for the good. Although non-increase in fare prices in the 2016 Railway budget was a major disappointment, but the major outlines of the budget seem to give a sense of relief. The cash strapped Indian Railways, mostly due to financial mismanagement, is finally looking to course –correction.
After a decade and half of rhetoric railway budgets, we finally have two sensible railway budgets on the trot. For a decade and half, it seemed that railway budgets were all about the introduction of new trains in special political constituencies. Not raising fares were considered as major political achievements. Once the railway fare was raised by a single rupee and it became a major political stunt. Raising of prices were always met with stiff opposition from the political opponents and sometimes from the ruling party as well. The story of cash strapped Indian Railways becoming a cash-cow in a couple of years, without increase in passenger fares, under the able guidance of a popular Railway Minister is a part of political folk-fore now. All the measures undertaken were short-term, with no real long-term planning in place.
It is the long-term vision that the last couple of Railway budgets has projected, if executed properly, is destined to provide the Indian railways a major turnaround. The focus is on modernisation of Indian railways, providing better facilities on-board and cutting down unnecessary expenditures. More focus is on developing the infrastructure, doubling of tracks, conversion of gauges and speedy implementation of key projects.
Key short term implementation goals are improvement in services to be provided by railways. To offer optional travel insurance for rail journeys at the time of booking, hourly booking of retiring rooms, Sale of tickets through hand held terminals; e-ticketing facility to foreign debit/credit cards, Wi-Fi provision in 400+ stations, 17,000 bio-toilets in trains etc. Also it has made provisions for introduction of new trains as per demand.
Overall the budget seems to be a balanced one with overall emphasis on the future of Indian railways.