Safer rail travel was high on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's agenda in the Union Railway budget that was announced this morning. With maximum focus on safety, Jaitley allotted over R1,00,000 crore for a new Rail Safety Fund, which would be utilised in the next five years. The development comes following a series of rail accidents during the last one year.
Jaitley announced that unmanned level crossing gates across India would be shut by 2020. These gates have been a major cause of accidents, especially in the rural areas.
The need for increasing the safety in the railways is the need of the hour, especially in Mumbai. Every year, on an average 3,400 to 3,600 people die on the city’s tracks. “There is a need to build concrete walls along the tracks to prevent people from crossing rail lines. At many places, the people break the walls,” said Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Sangh. According to a source, the government will be drawing clear-cut guidelines to improve the existing norms, as far as safety is concerned.
Sprucing up stations
The railways will be signing joint ventures with nine state governments, mainly to ensure overall development of stations. Around 25 stations have already been identified and work has begun for a few. Moreover, there are plans to have escalators and lifts at 500 stations across India.
The Centre is also going to install solid waste management plants across stations, which would recycle and dispose all kinds of garbage found on the tracks and inside trains.
In order to cut down on the railways’ electricity usage, at least 7,000 stations across India will be solar-powered. The government aims to generate at least 20,000 MW of electricity through this initiative.
To further encourage the use of cashless transactions, the railways has withdrawn service charges levied by the IRCTC. While no immediate announcement was made on the tariff hike, Jaitley added that it would be based on the cost incurred for running trains and the service provided at stations. Another key announcement was the establishment of a Metro Rail Policy, which will bring all metros in India under its ambit.
Poor and minority
1cr - Houses to be completed by 2017-18 for homeless
R1.84L cr - Total allocation for women and children welfare
R4,195cr - Total allocation for minority affairs
R4.11L cr - Total resources that will be transferred to state, union territories with legislatures
R2.74L cr - Expenditure for defence, excluding pension
2 - No. of AIIMS to be set-up in Jharkhand and Gujarat
R64,000cr - Amount allocated for National Highways
R10,000cr - Amount to be pumped into public sector banks
20 year - New tenure for loans under Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme
10 lakh - No. of additional point-of-sale terminals to be introduced in banks
R187,223cr - Total allocation for rural, agricultural and allied sectors for 2017-18
100% - Electrification of villages to be completed by May 2018
7,000 - Stations to be solar-powered
500 - Stations to be disabled-friendly with lifts and escalators
R1,00,000cr - Rail safety fund to be created over a period of 5 yrs
3,500km - New railway lines to be commissioned