A parliamentary committee headed by Trinamul Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi has said due to the lack of a clear and unambiguous perception of its role, Indian Railways is neither properly discharging its role as a commercial entity with a profit motive nor is it in a position to fulfill its societal obligation to the billion-plus people who use the facility.
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The Standing Committee on Railways in its report submitted to Parliament this week has expressed concern that even railway projects linked to the defence sector have been inordinately delayed for various reasons, including resource crunch.
Pointing out the stark contrast to concerted efforts by some neighbouring countries (read China) that are building state-of-the-art railway networks right next to Indias borders in highly inhospitable terrain, the report said the delay wil affect the countrys security and defence preparedness.
The committee took note of the various dimensions of the resource crunch faced by the Railways and the resultant debilitating impact it has had in large measure on the Railways system as a whole.
It also noted that revenue from premium trains is not often commensurate with the investment. On the other hand, investment for facilities in non-premium trains leaves much to be desired, which is visible in the condition of the non-premium trains. It underlined that figures for track renewals and procurement of electric locos, wagon and coaches, including DEMU and MEMU, have shown a downward trend.
Rebutting the governments claim of a visible turnaround in operations, the report has highlighted declining productivity, rise in unit cost of operation and an unrealistic operating ratio (OR) target, based on text book solutions.
The 31-member panel, comrpsing MPs of both Houses, has said IR is again under a severe financial crisis. Its OR Rs money spent to earn Rs 100 Rs has deteriorated to 93.6, the ratio of net revenue to capital is 5.6 per cent and the surplus was only Rs 3,740 crore in 2013-14, it said.
The input cost per net tonne kilometre (NTKM) Rs the broad measure of systems productivity for freight operations Rs rose from 31.19 paise in 2011-12 to 32.61p in 2013-14, a deterioration of 4.5 per cent. Unit cost per passenger kilometre (PKM) has gone up from 22.82 to 23.21p, a decline of 1.7 per cent in productivity, the report said.
It also questioned Railways Minister Suresh Prabhus decision of not announcing new trains and projects. No new trains is not a good idea.
People living in remote, under-developed, tribal and hilly areas have been waiting for decades for a rail link, the report said.
On the ministrys move to seek lending from multilateral institutions, the panel cautioned against falling into a debt trap and said IR must study the bankability of projects in minute detail before implementing any financing model.