A worker walks along rail tracks in Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Budget 2019: ‘Nothing On Railways In This Manifesto Budget’

BloombergQuintOpinion

As told to BloombergQuint.

It is evident that this is a knee-jerk last-minute-thought budget, and it reflects the nervousness of the government before going into elections. Suddenly they have realised that there’s a community called farmers and there is an urban middle class. Suddenly they’ve shifted their entire focus, without thinking about how they are going to achieve their goals. This looks more like a manifesto rather than a budget. No one knows if they will be back in power. How are they going to be held accountable?

Railways Have Taken A Total Backseat

There is nothing in the budget on the railways. It’s as if the railways don’t exist. Without the railways increasing growth, the nation’s GDP can’t grow. The gap between growth rates of the railways and GDP is nearly over 2 percent. In other words, if the country’s GDP has to grow 7 percent, railways has to grow at a minimum of 9 percent.

There is no growth story at all about the railways. How are they going to make the movement of freight? How are they going to finance the railway development plan?
Coal being loaded on to a frieght wagon spills out,  in Chandwa, Jharkhand. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)
Coal being loaded on to a frieght wagon spills out, in Chandwa, Jharkhand. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

They talk of capital expenditure of about Rs 1 lakh crore in the bullet train, how are they going to repay? Because somebody has to. If I don’t have to repay in 30 years, that doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t have to repay in 30 years. They have not thought about the country. They have only thought about the next elections. If the railway does not grow, how are you going to create jobs? In the budget there’s nothing that tells you that this is a growth-oriented budget.

This is basically government financing its election manifesto through the public exchequer.

Their rail outlay is Rs 64,000 crore. What has increased? It has, in fact, decreased by 40 percent, since the earlier outlay was Rs 1 lakh crore.

Also read: Budget 2019: Taking Stock Of Indian Railways, The Last Five Years

Do The Numbers Add Up?

The government has increased its market borrowing. They have begun their bid to attract voters, so this is a budget which is not meant for the country. With the market borrowing so high, it’s like you’re funding your election with taxpayers’ money to announce populist schemes.

They have a done a fantastic job in fudging the numbers. Nobody trusts the government as far as figures are concerned.

Look at the rate of unemployment. It’s 6.1 percent. They’re not coming out with the facts. If there’s so much manufacturing and everything is happening in India, why are there no jobs? It’s not matching with what you’re projecting.

If you see the Budget Estimate of revenue receipts, it was Rs 17,25,738 crore and the Revised Estimate is Rs 17,29,682 crore.

If you have not been able to achieve anywhere near the estimate of capital receipts, how would you achieve the current revenue receipt?

The figures are astronomically high and the government is hoodwinking people.

Dinesh Trivedi is a former Union Minister for Railways, and is a member of the Lok Sabha from the Trinamool Congress.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.