The railways has spent more than Rs 1 lakh crore on safety measures between 2017-2018 and 2021-22 with a steady growth in expenditure on track renewal, according to an official document. Government sources also indicated that the railways will soon reply to a Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s report that was cited by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge to attack the Centre over the Friday triple-train accident in Odisha’s Balasore that claimed 275 lives and injured more than 1,000 people. Kharge on Monday had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that “all the empty safety claims” of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw have been “exposed”.
He also said there is serious concern among people about the deterioration in safety of railways. In his letter, Kharge had pointed out that the 2022 CAG report “Derailment in Indian Railways” highlights that funding for the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) has been reduced by a massive 79 per cent. It was claimed during the budget presentation that about Rs 20,000 crore would be available annually, but this was not done, he had claimed and asked why were the required funds not allocated for track renewal work.
However, data in the document showed that from 2017-18 to 2021-22, the railways spent more than Rs 1 lakh crore on RRSK works. In February 2022, the government extended the validity of RRSK by another five years, starting 2022-23. The data on track renewal shows that expenditure on it, during 2017-18 to 2021-22, has reflected a steady growth. From Rs 8,884 crore in 2017-18, the expenditure on track renewal increased to Rs 13,522 crore in 2020-21 and Rs 16,558 crore in 2021-22, the document stated.
In total, the railways spent Rs 58,045 crore on track renewal during this period, it stated. Report number 22 of 2022 of the CAG on “Derailment in Indian Railways” was tabled in Parliament on December 21 last year.
A government source said, “The coverage of RRSK utilisation in the (CAG) report is limited to three years — 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20. Hence, it gives a partial picture on actual expenditure that has been undertaken on both track renewal as well as safety related works by the Indian Railways. As is the practice, a detailed reply on all issues raised in this report is being sent shortly.”
“The factual position on expenditure, therefore, is completely contrary to the figures being quoted. The actual trend of expenditure on track renewal on the Indian Railways has increased from Rs 47,039 crore during 2004-05 to 2013-14 to Rs 1,09,023 crore during 2014-15 to 2023-24 (BE or Budget Estimate), reflecting an increase of more than double,” the source said.
The sources also said similarly, expenditure on safety related works, which include track renewal, bridges, level crossing, railway over and under bridges and signalling works, has increased from Rs 70,274 crore during 2004-05 to 2013-14 to Rs 1,78,012 crore during 2014-15 to 2023-24 (BE), reflecting an increase of more than two and a half times.