Railway Budget 2016: Pink Book matters, not the Railway Budget speech
The railway minister’s budget speech might be the one that catches the nation’s eyeballs, but if old-time railway officials are to be believed, it’s the Pink Book one should look for.
The Pink Book is the official register of the railways that lays down to the last rupee the money allotted for a project.
“The railway budget speech has, over the years, become a political tool for the government to spread the goodies by way of announcements. While we get carried away by the announcements, the actual intent of the ministry is known when you see the Pink Book.
“For example, the minister might announce a project of Rs 2,000 crore, but by allotting just Rs 1 lakh for it in the Pink Book, he is signalling that the ministry isn’t too keen on the project,” said a former railway official.
Sometimes it also signals that a particular project can be kept on the backburner for a little while. “Against a cost of Rs 57 crore to extend platform numbers 10, 11, 12 and 13 at CST to handle 24 coach trains, the allotment in the Pink Book for 2015-16 was a mere Rs 1 lakh. It means the work can wait,” said an official.
The money allotted to Central Railway in the budget for 2015-16 (which was read out by railway minister Suresh Prabhu on February 26 last year) is a case in point.
While the projects announced for Maharashtra was in the region of Rs 10,000 crore, the actual allotment for all activities of the CR, which dominates the state network, for the current financial year was Rs 2,493.9 crore.
Same was the case with Western Railway, which got projects worth several thousand crore rupees but its net outlay from the budget was Rs 3,135 crore.
On CR, one of the big allotments in the current financial year in the Pink Book was Rs 206.78 crore for the 467- km Pune-Miraj-Londa line doubling, which is expected to cost Rs 4,670 crore. The Rs 2,826 crore- Ahmednagar-Beed-Parli project got around Rs 125 crore for the current financial year.
What Pink Book allotted for WR and CR for 2015-16:
Activity Cost (WR) Cost (CR)
- New Line construction Rs 140 Crore Rs 188 Crore
- Gauge conversion Rs 608.6 Crore Rs 1 Crore
- Doubling of line Rs 933 Core Rs 266 Crore
- Rolling stock Rs 13.48 Crore Rs 18.11 Crore
- Net plan outlay Rs 3,135.8 Crore Rs 2,493.9 Crore