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Day 36- Ques Ans

The Railway Budget has become a mechanism to announce popular measures, with no concomitant focus on addressing Railways’ structural requirements. Comment. Do you think it is high time that we do away with Railway Budget? Discuss.

 A separate railway budget was an exercise stated in 1924 to make specific focus on rail infrastructure development.  Still today we have it because

  • A legacy of past still we are carrying
  • 44% of total government civil employee works under railway.
  • Railway network is so huge in terms of distance, passengers and freight t transportation which need separate focus
  • Railway 100% owned by center government and not allowed any private investment so to ensure development faster that arrangement has continued.

However in past we have seen railway has become a political escape goat laden with so many welfare schemes and railway budget has become a forum to announce those measures.  Now recently Bibek Deboroy committee and further NITI Ayog have suggested removing. Today we do not need separate railway budget because

  • Railway needs radical reforms while budget mostly deliver popular measure.
  • As other ministries propose annual reports and action plan to showcase the work, railway can do same inspire of budget.
  • Budget exercise leads more government process and less governance process.
  • In 1924 railways budget was a big share to total budget so kept separate; this is not the case today.
  • It will reduce the political expectation burden from railway and will be able to function as other ministries of welfare.

A separate rail budget may reduce the visibility of railway ministry from media, which is actually good as it will be no more media hostage. Welfare measures can be continued as part of annual budget also but we need today more reforms in railway to make it efficient and compete at global level.

Investment in technology, improvement of processes and recovery of costs through user charges must form the pillars of the mission of delivering potable water in a rapidly urbanising India. Elaborate.

For future urban India the most potential crisis is availability of safe and pure usable water. To make it available on 2050 when around 50% population will be shifted to urban areas need immediate steps-

  • Technology investment- is the prime way to handle the crisis. Water recycling for every drop, water harvesting structures across city, save precious precipitation, link osmosis water facility in coastal cities, check the water leakage from existing channels, smart water transportation system as smart grid for electricity, are few areas where need innovation and investment to think out of box. We can learn from foreign experiences on that.
  • Conservation– it is the biggest challenge today India cities have, we need to protect river beds, wetland areas, and natural water storage bodies in city and nearby areas. Any encroachment in those areas by human will multiply the water crisis as in case of Latur city in Maharashtra.
  • Multi stakeholder approach– under smart water user projects center, state, community, and local bodies need to come together. It is not a choice but only way out to manage water in cities. Awareness among citizens for water, empowerment to local bodies with money, human resource, and technology with stick accountability will serve the purpose.
  • Costing– water availability cannot allow to be a costly affair as it will hurt poor, women, and distress the most. Affordable water for everyone will ensure equality otherwise will create chaos in any city of world. Similar smart meters need to use to charge proper and effetely cover the water cost for maintaining system.

Today India has fight for water among states (Punjab, Haryana, Delhi), community (common seen in cities), sectors (agriculture vs other sectors) so we need out of box solution to fix the problem and make Indian cities more water smart.

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