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Rlys likely to be freed of populism after Budget unification

Cabinet ends 92-yr-old rule, approves merger of Railways & Union Budget

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Sep 23 2016 1:20PM | Updated Date: Sep 23 2016 1:20PM

Rlys likely to be freed of populism after Budget unification

Central government's decision to discontinue the 92 years old British-era practice separated the Railway Budget from Union Budget. Apart from being intended to encourage better fiscal management it also aimed at freeing the state-run transporter from the clutches of ruinous political populism.

Political glamour of rail ministry attracted the attention of regional political players who bargained and controlled the portfolio for more than 15 years of coalition government under United Front, NDA and UPA regimes.
Railway budget often become a center piece of various political gains. The state-run transporter was forced to divert resources even as unfinished projects piled up amid popular, but uneconomical announcements.
Most of the leaders treated the portfolio like a milking cow for distributing political patronage. This populism pushed back long pending reforms to plug the flaws in the national transporter's structures and governance.
The decision to do away with the rail budget was welcomed by BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab who heads the railway convention committee.
"There is no need for a separate budget as there are other departments in the government that also have large budgets. The railway budget was a relic of colonial times with the general budget being presented in England," he said.
Barring Nitish Kumar, who was seen to be committed to financial and safety norms, other regional bigwigs like Ram Vilas Paswan, Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee often focussed more on politics.
TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, who left the rail portfolio after winning Bengal assembly polls, went on to sack her party nominee Dinesh Trivedi who increased passenger fares left untouched for decades.