Suresh Prabhu to approach Finance Ministry for Rs 1 lakh crore Special Railway Safety Fund
NEW DELHI: Shaken by a spate of rail mishaps in the past few days, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has decided to approach the finance ministry for Rs 1 lakh crore as Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF) and launch a Zero Accident Mission. This is an admission by the cash-strapped organisation that it is unable to raise funds from internal resources and needs help from the government to undertake basic safety-related works. Chairman Railway Board AK Mittal confirmed that the proposal for finance ministry was being finalised.
If the Railways is granted the amount, this would be the second time for the organisation to get special funds from the Centre to improve safety. In 2001, then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar had gotRs 17,000 crore as non-lapsable SRSF.
The SRSF was supposed to be valid for five years but the period was extended to seven years. Then SRSF was mainly used to renew signalling system, track renewals and for rehabilitation of bridges. Incidentally, the Railways at that time had given an assurance to Parliament that this was a one-time fund.
Prabhu, at a meeting with all Railway Board members and 17 general managers (GMs) on Tuesday, said they would be held accountable for any mishap and no excuses for lapses would be tolerated. He had summoned all the zonal heads to discuss safety issues. One of the GMs, who attended the meeting, told ET that the minister was extremely agitated.
“I am answerable to Parliament, to the public, to the media and to the Prime Minister, if an accident takes place. It is time that you people became answerable and accountable,” Prabhu is believed to have told the railway officials. The minister pointed out that he had delegated powers and decentralised decision-making at the level of GMs and divisional railway managers (DRMs). “But with this empowerment should come greater responsibility,” he told them. While analysing the causes of the recent accidents, the minister and the officers reached the conclusion that unless money was put into improving the basic infrastructure, safety would continue to be a casualty.
Giving a broad break-up, Mittal said that Rs 40,000 crore was needed to remove unmanned crossings by building road under bridges and road over bridges,Rs 40,000 crore for track renewal and Rs 5,000 crore for strengthening bridges.