New Delhi, Feb 26: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu may have heard our woes when we crib how will the ministry expand infrastructure when the existing ones are in a sorry state. The boggies are unclean and tattered, maintenance is low, food not up to the mark.
This apart, the tracks are unkempt, broken and the OHE wires malfunction in many areas, leading to delayed railway services.
True, the North Eastern States are yet to be connected, but the fundamentals have to be cleared first. With this view in mind, Suresh Prabhu said that he is keeping the basics in mind.
"When we go on a long journey, what do we need? Our family packs food, medicines and water for us. I assure commom people that all of them would be getting the same homely treatment while travelling by railways," said Prabhu.
Media reports and experts believe that the minister is likely to stay clear off big-ticket sops and announcements, but will harp on the existing infrastructure.
However, he is likely to come up with proposals for innovative funding to fund infrastructure projects.
Although some minor changes in the fare can be expected, the Railway budget 2015 is likely to be more pragmatic, aiming to bring the transporter's finances back on track.
Moreover, he is likely to slow down on the introduction of trains and projects.
Complete existing projects than taking up new ones
Although considered a reformer, Suresh Prabhu is way behind reformation in his ideas, thanks to the present deficit economy of the country. Precisely why he is not expecting any support from the main budget.
His main focus, therefore, is completion of the existing projects by assigning them adequate funds and fecilitating their early completion. Shockingly, the minister has to administer over 300 pending projects that require a whopping Rs 1.7 lakh crore.
Prabhu will unveil his idea on fund raising in his first budget, which may involve collecting funds from the Members of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) scheme, state governments by setting up SPVs and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of the private sector.
He is likely to rope in state governments and public-private financial sectors for investment with long-term joint ventures. Soft financing from Japan and China is also on the fray.
Make in India
Despite this, the budget will not deviate from the main agenda of PM Modi's poll pitch-Diamond Quadrilateral connecting major metros and growth centres by high speed trains and the 'Make in India' campaigns.
Indigenous coaches, which can run at 200 kilometer/hour speed will be proposed. Connectivity with the Northeast will be increased with DEMU services.
Swachch and safe railways
In sync with the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, Prabhu will also increase support for clean toilets with the introduction of bio toilets. Green initiatives like water conservation are also on the fray.
MOre trains are likely to be covered under the 'On Board Housekeeping Services'. Provision for dustbins in all type of coaches and improving passenger facilities at stations by involving NGOs and private players are some of the other focal points.
Safety of women passengers, installation of CCTV cameras and lady CRPF officers onboard are some of the other things likely to be taken up in the budget.
A technocrat, but a common man before being the minister, Suresh Prabhu is expected to shed his VVIP shell and think like a common man during the railway budget.