Sunday 11 April 2021
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EconomySitharaman allocates record Rs 1,10,055 crore for railways

Sitharaman allocates record Rs 1,10,055 crore for railways

Amid the pandemic, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed to hike foreign direct investment limit from the current 49% level to 74%

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Sitharaman, presenting the budget proposal for the fiscal year 2021-22 today, said that the Indian Railways had prepared a ‘National Rail Plan’ for India 2030 which aims to create a “future-ready” railways system by 2030 – bringing down logistic cost for the industry. She said this was at the core of a strategy to boost ‘Make in India’ in order to boost local manufacturing.  

“I am providing a record sum of Rs 1,10,055 crores for Indian Railways of which Rs 1,07,100 crores is for Capital Expenditure only,” Sitharaman said.

Sitharaman touched upon safety adding a number of measures were undertaken in the past years which bore results. “To further strengthen, high-density network and highly utilised network routes of railways will be provided with indigenously developed automatic train protection system that eliminates train collision due to human error,” the finance minister said.

Sitharaman spoke of the New Rail Plan that envisages a future-ready Indian Railways by 2030. As part of her Union Budget 2021 speech, Sitharaman announced Rs 1,10,055 crore for Indian Railways. Out of this record sum, Rs 1,07,100 crore is for capital expenditure.

Talking about the priorities of Indian Railways, the finance minister spoke of the commissioning of the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors. According to Sitharaman, the priority is to bring down the logistics cost for industry to promote an Atmanirbhar Bharat. For the same, the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight corridors will be commissioned by June 2022.

A few sections of the dedicated freight corridors will be made on the Public-Private Partnership model. She said that the dedicated freight corridor assets will be monetised once the corridors are commissioned.

Railway Budget 2021 also highlighted the national transporter’s plan for 100% electrification of the broad gauge network by December 2023. On the passenger front, Sitharaman said that new Vistadome LHB coaches will be attached to trains on tourist routes to enhance comfort. According to the FM, Indian Railways’ safety measures have borne results in the last few years. She said that on high-density networks and highly utilised routes an indigenous anti-collision system would be installed for trains safety.

Piyush Goyal-administered Indian Railways recently unveiled the National Rail Plan 2024 that gives broad indications on what Railway Budget 2021 would focus on. Indian Railways is looking to invite private sector participation in a big way for upgrading railway stations and also running trains on the network. India’s first “private railway station”, Habibganj in Madhya Pradesh, the project under PPP mode is nearing its first phase completion. Also, Indian Railways is hoping to finalise the bids for the 150 private trains project by the first half of this year.

The National Rail Plan 2024 also talks about the need to boost high-speed rail connectivity in the country on crucial high demand routes. Some of the routes proposed in the National Rail Plan are; Delhi Varanasi via Ayodhya, Patna to Guwahati, Varanasi to Patna, Hyderabad to Bangalore, Delhi to Ahmedabad via Udaipur, Delhi to Chandigarh, Mumbai to Hyderabad, Amritsar to Jammu. The Detailed Project Report for the Delhi Varanasi bullet train project has been submitted to the Ministry of Railways for review.

Finance Minister Sitharaman began her Union Budget 2021 speech at 11 AM amid heckling by parliamentarians. Among big-ticket measures, the finance minister proposed Rs 64,180-crore Aatmanirbhar Swastha Bharat scheme in view of the pandemic. “Only three times has the Budget followed a contraction in the economy. This time, unlike before, the situation is due to a global pandemic. Budget 2021 provides every opportunity for the economy to capture the pace and grow sustainably,” she began.

The Budget 2021 proposals rest on six pillars — health and well-being, physical and financial capital, infrastructure, inclusive development for aspirational India, reinvigorating human capital, innovation, research and development, minimum government and maximum governance, she added.

Amid the pandemic, the Sitharaman proposed to hike foreign direct investment (FDI) limit from the current 49% to 74%.

The Sitharaman had earlier promised a “never before” budget not seen in a hundred years to ward off the economic devastation caused by a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic which rendered millions out of jobs, shuttered scores of small businesses and snuffed the spending power of the bottom of pyramid populace.

A fleeting look at the stock markets might indicate that a robust economic recovery is already underway which is not the case as it is important to note that markets factor in future earnings and hopes of future recovery, not the situation on the ground.

Even if the GDP grows by 11% in FY22, as indicated in the Economic Survey 2021-22, it will be at Rs 149.2 lakh crore, which is just 2.4% more than GDP of Rs 145.7 lakh crore in 2019-20. This means that at the end of FY22, India’s GDP will be a tad more than what it was at the end of FY20. It is this shortfall of two years of economic growth that commentators expect the forthcoming budget to address.

Covid-19 vaccines

Sitharaman said that India already has 2 vaccines available and has begun safeguarding not only her own citizens against the scourge of Covid-19 but those of 100 or more countries. “It has added comfort to know that 2 or more vaccines are also expected soon,” she said. 

“The pneumococcal vaccine, limited to only 5 states at present, to be rolled out across the country. This will avert more than 50,000 child deaths annually,” the minister said. 

Sitharaman said that Rs 1.97 lakh crore has been allotted for Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Schemes to create “manufacturing global champions” for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. It will nurture size and scale and create jobs for youth, the minister said. 

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