New Delhi, Aug 2 (IANS) The Lok Sabha on Tuesday adopted a resolution under which the Railway Ministry has questioned the practice of railways paying dividend to the government, as Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu maintained that the country’s “strategic asset is in deep trouble for long”.
A senior Trinamool Congress member and former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi echoed his sentiments and lamented that the organisation had its hands and feet “tied”.
Pushing hard for the unanimous adoption of the resolution moved on Friday, Prabhu listed out a number of steps taken by the Railways to ensure higher investments, general improvement in services and infrastructures and ensure that the national transporter does not lose freight and passenger traffic.
“We have taken a number of measures to take passengers back to the Railways. We are bringing in new technology to ensure transparency,” he said at the end of the debate in which, among others, Trivedi supported the minister’s contentions.
Prabhu said the Railways has been a “strategic asset and national treasure” but has been in “deep trouble for long”.
“We have to make all efforts to pull it out. That is the challenge. The Indian Railways must be developed to its full potential,” he said.
The minister emphasised the need for a re-examination of the dividend policy that takes care of the government’s social obligations to the tune of Rs 34,000 crore.
He said the Indian Railways gets near negligible subsidy — below one per cent — as compared with the railways in developed countries like Germany, France, Italy and Austria.
“We are asking for a subsidy of 30 paise per km only,” the minister said.
The Lok Sabha took up for discussion the resolution on Friday afternoon and it continued also on Monday.
The members discussed at length the rate at which the Railways should pay the dividends to the government at a time when the national transporter is financially overburdened, following the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission report.
The resolution is actually moved in the spirit of recommendation of a Railway Convention Committee.
The resolution read: “That this House approves the recommendations contained in the First Report of Railway Convention Committee (2014), appointed to review the rate of dividend payable by the Railway Undertaking to General Revenues and other ancillary matters, which was presented to both the Houses of Parliament on 22nd December, 2015.”
Prabhu on Friday told the Lok Sabha members: “This paying of dividend to the Finance Ministry is one area which really needs to be looked into. Why should the Railways pay dividend?”
Participating in the debate, Trivedi (Trinamool Congress) said as someone who has handled the Railways, he knew the organisation’s “hands and legs are tied”.
“They are not allowed to do whatever they want to do in terms of generating their own revenue.”
On top of it, Trivedi said, if the railways has to pay dividend on whatever capital it gets, “I think, it is impossible for any Railway Minister, with any kind of calibre, to move on”.
He said it is high time the members appreciated and decided on what role the Railways need to take.
“Do we want the Indian Railways to be a transportation system only for the poorest of the poor from point ‘A’ to ‘B’ or do we want the Railways to be instrumental in adding two and a half per cent to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and to the growth of the nation,” Trivedi said.
Prabhu said he was working on long-term plans for the railways development.
“We are developing a plan for railways for 2030…in close consultation with stakeholders”, he said and asked parliamentarins to give inputs in this regard.
The Railways has said its burden is as high as Rs 30,000 crore. This year, the Railways have been saddled with additional burden of Rs 30,000 crore on account of implementation of the Pay Commission recommendations.
The minister said the Railways will, in fact, need additional funding. He said the Railways was taking steps to augment its funding.