New Delhi, Feb 26 : Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav will present his fifth Rail Budget today that is expected to be people friendly.
Lalu before presenting the budget said that there is no pressure on him to present a people friendly one.
Prasad is likely to go in for a nominal reduction in passenger fares and rationalisation of freight rates.
Though he may be required to budget around Rs 9,000 crore in 2008-09 since the pay commission's report will be implemented, he will save a little on dividend payment, which was budgeted at Rs 4,572.54 crore in 2007-08.
Indian Railways runs over 14,000 trains a day, and cutting fares would help tackle price pressures and woo voters ahead of general elections next year. The government wants to build up the railways to meet the demands of the fast growing economy that is currently moving at 8.7 per cent. Last year, Lalu Prasad had cut freight rates for a string of fuels and minerals by between 5-6 per cent, and outlined plans to modernise the century-and-a-half-old network, one of the world's largest. The state-run network's earlier reputation for red tape and inefficiency saw it losing freight traffic to trucks and passengers to a fleet of new, cut-price air carriers. According to analysts, the rail network now has a cash surplus of nearly 2.5 billion dollars. In the last two years, the railways has been innovative in its bid to make profit, by introducing competitive bidding for catering to leasing out advertising space on railway buildings, stations and some trains. The Rail Ministry is trying to increase its share of freight by cutting costs and turnaround times, appealing to businesses frustrated by the slow movement of goods.