New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has voiced extreme displeasure over the functioning of Railways, in a letter to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s office.
According to a report, the letter, written on January 31, expresses dissatisfaction over the functioning of the Railways, especially in the light of train derailments last year which killed around 225 people.
But the letter does not focus exclusively on the accidents. It blames the Railway Ministry for not achieving several targets set over the past two years. Key among them was a promise to achieve “modernisation of facilities in railways” which, as the letter suggests, has not happened so far.
“You are aware of the focus of the government towards development and modernisation of facilities in railways,” the letter says.
“While reviewing the progress up to 2016, against the target of 1500 km of doubling, only 531 km has been achieved. In electrification, against the target of 2000 RKM, only 1,210 km has been achieved by railways,” the letter, addressed to Railway Board chairman AK Mittal, says.
The PMO warns Mittal in the letter that the Railways ‘needs to justify higher budget allocation’ in the next Budget (for 2018). In this year’s Rail Budget, the railways had received an impressive Rs 1,31,000 crore from the Finance Ministry. This was much more than what other transport ministries such as road and civil aviation had received.
2016 was the worst year for Railways in India in terms of accidents. Most of the accidents took place due to rail fracture on heavily congested routes. Rail fracture happens due to poor maintenance of tracks. Laying another set of tracks on the route, or doubling, is one way of easing congestion.
In the letter, the PMO accuses the Railways of not utilizing its expenditure well in this regard. It also deplores the ‘crowding of expenditure’ which it says “slows down the pace of implementation in the first quarter of the next annual budget”.
While the PMO sees a lack of urgency by the Railway Ministry to perform, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley too is not happy, said the report. Jaitley has been asking the ministry to focus on its core work — that of running trains safely and modernising facilities in the railways, said the report.