[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he year is about to come to an end on a heavy note with the ban on high denomination currency notes leading to chaos and cash crunch across the country. The year 2016 has seen two major economic decisions taken by the central government, one being the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the second being the demonetisation campaign announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8. While people are still uncertain about the impact of both these decisions, it is the budget of 2017 that is most awaited in determining the government’s way of dealing with the current situation of chaos and expectations in the country.
Weeks before he presents India’s first combined general and railway budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced that the rail commuters must pay for the service they receive even as he made a strong case for outsourcing of non-core functions like hospitality services. He said year after year, the success of Railway Budget was measured by subsidising consumers and making populist declarations regarding trains.
Apart from the expectations from the government to address the issues raised by demonetisation in the upcoming budget, there are two major changes which the Union Budget 2017 will witness. First is the merger of the Railway Budget with the Union Budget, and second being the change of date of announcement from the end of February to February 1.
Marking a dramatic move away from the 92-year-old practice of presenting a separate Railway Budget ahead of the Union Budget, the Railway and Union budgets will be presented together. The process of preparing the Railway Budget remains unchanged. A single appropriation bill would be prepared with the estimates of the Railway Budget as well. The reasoning behind the move is to save time for the government by not having to hold consideration for two separate bills.
I hope our FM knows the meaning of commercial and government running businesses. If we have to pay and use then why we are paying taxes for. They should first abolish taxes – IT, GST, road taxes etc. Moreover, the condition of Indian Railways has not improved much as it was promised. Railways need to maintain punctuality, before they think of charging higher fares. They should ensure that trains will run on time, maintain the compartments, ensure proper functioning of fans, AC, toilets, water, etc. Railways also need to improve efficiency which shall reduce the cost per kilometre. Better turnaround time of engines, rakes shall also help in increasing productivity. In fact, the Railways need to reduce the freight charges to increase the market share of transporting goods and get higher volumes.
Performance over populism
Air India is still run as national airlines despite incurring heavy losses. Most of the PSUs are running into heavy losses still they are not privatized. Parliament remaining dysfunctional both with BJP in power and in opposition and the list will just go on and on. If government is so overwhelmed in charging extra from commuters then they should allow purchase of International Flight Tickets without charging high fares including Airport charges. On every air-ticket, there are other countries tax, plus our service tax with addition to cess like “Krishi”, “Education” and Swachh Bharat” and from April 2017 flat 18 per cent GST will be charged. Hence, if Leave Travel Allowance (LTA) is allowed on International Ticket it will be indirectly profitable to Indian Government.
Why do government collect income taxes, excise tax, service tax, entertain tax etc. if people have to pay for all the services they use? Make everything a ‘paid’ service and abolish all the taxes. Only thing we would need is a mechanism to pay for national security, rest everything has to be paid for by the people who use it. The focus of the Indian Railways, as a public owned entity, should be confined to infrastructure, i.e. tracks, signalling and platforms (including the properties). The GoI should have an open auction to licence services for 5 years, and use the revenue generated from that to improve the quality of tracks and signalling. Services provided at the platforms should be outsourced. Government of India (GoI) should provide appropriate tracks, signalling and modernise platforms and the private train and freight companies should provide appropriate services as demanded by the customers.
Public owned land and properties
These valuable assets could be leased, for say 30-50 years for generating revenue to improve the services provided by the railways. Railways should impose fine on contractors if they failed to deliver the promised services. In this way through penalty and compensation, Railways can ease its burden and it can focus on the providing better services and enhancing safety.
If common man suffers like this, then I can predict that in the next elections BJP will face hardship and would be vanished.
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