New Delhi: All the major political parties may have criticised the Railway Budget for 2016-17 presented by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday, but the Indian business fraternity hailed it, terming it a pragmatic budget with no passenger fare hike.
The views of corporate bigwigs:
* Harshavardhan Neotia, president, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry:
It is an extremely pragmatic rail budget based on the three critical strategy pillars, aimed at making railways the backbone of India’s overall development. The rationalization of freight policy and review of public-private-partnership policy framework would help to attract private players for transforming rail transportation and increasing the revenue.
* Sumit Mazumder, president, Confederation of Indian Industry:
Reliance on technology through introduction of train sets, power saving initiatives and enhancement of passenger amenities will go a long way in improving the customer experience from Indian railways. Measures such as expanding of freight basket, building terminal capacity, among others would help augment revenues.
* Sunil Kanoria, president, Associated Chambers of Commerce of India:
Railway minister has given a no-tariff-hike budget without compromising on the capital expenditure for increasing carrying capacity, both passengers and freight even in a challenging economic environment marked by a severe slowdown in the commodity sectors, which are lifeline of railways’ earnings.
* Mahesh Gupta, president, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry:
The employment focus of the budget is highly encouraging as railways shall generate 23 crore many days by 2018-19 of which 9 crore man-days are envisaged in 2017-18 and 14 crore in 2018-19. The rail budget 2016-17 rightly focuses on socio-economic upliftment of masses as the introduction of Antyodya Express and addition of coaches in Deen Dayalu for unreserved travel rightly asserts it.
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* Anuj Puri, chairman and country head, JLL (Jones Lang Laselle) India:
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s announcement today (on Thursday) on redevelopment of 400 stations through the private-public partnership (PPP) model is a very progressive and welcome move. This project will foster a plethora of large transit-oriented developments across the country, possibly resulting in the largest TOD (transit oriented development) undertaking in the world and thereby leading to higher transit ridership.
* Vineet Agarwal, managing director, Transport Corporation of India (TCI) Group
Connectivity of airports with railways would give a boost to the perishable goods sector and this would encourage the use of multi-modal transportation. However the budget doesn’t address explicitly the efforts to increase the share of movements by rail compared to road sector. The modal mix is still heavily tilted to road and the recent drop in fuel prices has further fueled the growth in road movements. In the same period, rail freight rates have increased making it a big challenge for industry to shift.
* M.N. Vidyashankar, president, India Electronics & Semiconductor Association (IESA):
In this budget, Indian Railways has taken a step further towards smarter transportation. GPS- based digital display in coaches and the introduction of bar-coded tickets not only bring more transparency but will also enhance security and comfort for the traveling public. The scheme of wi-fi installations in 500 railway stations by next year, will witness a further reduce in the country’s digital gap.
* Mukesh Butani, managing partner, BMR Legal:
Prabhu didn’t give in to hiking fares as an easy solution to resources woes. Instead, he has proposed enhanced revenue mobilization through more innovative means. Amongst key misses, last year’s announcement about a five year investment plan of Rs.9 lakh crore didn’t find any mention.
* Pushpinder Singh, co-founder and CEO, Travelkhana
The government move of expanding e-catering to 400 stations and decouple food distribution with food preparation will be extremely helpful for us.
* Sharat Dhall, President, Yatra.com
It is also good to witness a slew of initiatives that will use modern technology such as Wi-Fi at stations, automated ticket machines, bio toilets and bar coded tickets and all this with no hike in passenger fares. The rail budget is also looking to enhance connectivity to the northeastern states and the beautification of stations at pilgrimage centres which will help promoting tourism to these places.