New Delhi: India Inc. Thursday welcomed the maiden budget of Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu calling it comprehensive and reform-oriented. “This is a ‘caring budget’. This cares for the customer. This cares for the environment. This cares for the stakeholders and, of course, this cares about the economy,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Banerjee said the budget had a business-like approach to decision-making especially as it outlined four major goals namely improving customer experience, ensuring safety, effecting capacity expansion and making railways financially sustainable.
Another industry body the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) also welcomed Prabhu’s maiden budget by describing it as forward-looking, pragmatic and strategy-oriented with an innovative approach.
“It is encouraging to see that the rail budget has envisaged an investment of Rs.8.5 lakh crore in the next five years that would be mobilised from sources such as multilateral development banks and pension funds,” FICCI’s secretary general A. Didar Singh said.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) called the railway budget a determined effort to ensure both the passengers and industrial consumers of better services with the help of technology. “The budget shows that for the first time the government has started treating the railways as a commercial enterprise without using it as a political vehicle,” said Rana Kapoor, Assocham president.
The PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the 11 major thrust areas announced in the budget would facilitate overall development of the sector. “No hike in railway passenger fares is good as the economy was facing severe inflation during the last many years and will be good respite to the common man,” said Alok B. Shriram, president of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“The 77 new projects covering 9,400 kms of doubling, tripling and quadrupling works proposed will attract more investments in the sector, thereby pushing it to higher growth trajectory,” Shriram added. Consulting firm KPMG in India said the budget’s short-term focus on augmenting and leveraging existing track infrastructure is a step in the right direction to make the railways more viable.
“To finance these initiatives steps to enhance greater private sector participation through public private partnerships and joint ventures are essential,” said Arvind Mahajan, head of infrastructure and government services, KPMG in India. Consulting major PwC India said the railway budget has set the right goals for itself like working with states; long term financing and use of private sector for providing last mile connectivity.
“Achievement of operating ratio of 88.5 percent will depend partly on fuel cost savings, and largely on freight rate increase for bulk commodities,” said Manish Agarwal, partner and leader, capital projects and infrastructure, PwC India. GE South Asia’s president and chief executive Banmali Agrawala said the budget’s focus on finding innovative solutions in both technical and financing aspects were steps in the right direction.
“The efforts towards building dedicated freight corridors (DFC), bringing in advanced technology in locomotives are key steps in achieving the ambitious freight target of 1.5 billion tonnes capacity,” Agrawala said. Travel firm MakeMyTrip said the proposals like WiFi at stations, faster train sets, lifts for the elderly and online booking of retiring rooms will move Indian Railways into a new age.
“Introduction of SMS alerts for train timings and development of a mobile app to address consumer complaints are the need of the hour in a country where mCommerce is set to grow explosively in the next two years,” said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and chief executive-India, MakeMyTrip.
Manish Rathi, co-founder and chief executive of RailYatri.in, called the budget as progressive and passenger-centric. “Focus on partnerships is a positive move. It will help in efficient capital use and improved execution. Wi-Fi access will help travelers access travel & services information easily while on the move,” Rathi said.