On March 9, The Print run by Shekhar Gupta published an article saying that Indian Railway has put as many as 498 projects under temporary freeze due to unavailability of funds. But this article, written by Srinand Jha, has turned out by another fake news published by the portal run by the president of Editors Guild.
The article said that while ₹6.75 lakh crore will be needed to complete the pending projects, govt has decided to allocate only ₹1000 per year as a token sum to keep those projects alive on paper, which comes to total ₹5 lakh per year. It says that there are many unviable projects in the list, but the govt is unable to abandon them due to political compulsions, and that’s why they are being kept active on paper. The Print claimed that the Modi government has failed in executing Railway projects, as it failed to review and prioritise them. They also say that the government has been “preoccupied with flashy schemes such as the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail”, and that is one of the reasons why other projects of Railways are not progressing.
Responding to the article on The Print, the Railway Ministry has issued an official statement debunking the statements made by it. The statement says that 498 Railway projects of 49,069 km length, costing Rs. 6.75 lakh crores are in different stages of planning/sanction/execution, out of which 8,979 km of railway tracks have been commissioned and ₹1.54 lakh crore has been incurred upto March 2019. The statement says that throw-forward of these projects in ₹5.21 lakh crore, and ₹36,614 crore was provided for those projects for the financial year 2019-2020, not ₹1000 per projects as claimed by The Print.
The projects include 188 new lines totalling 21,295 km, where ₹85,536 crore has been spent upto March 2019 and ₹14,848 crore was allocated for 2019-20. For 55 gauge conversion projects totalling 7,275 km, ₹19,640 crore has been spent and ₹3,465 crore was provided for current fiscal. For 255 track doubling projects of 20,500 km, expenditure of ₹48,352 crore has been made the 2019-20 budget allocation for the same was ₹18,301 crore.
The statement says that, to ensure faster development of Railway network and value for money (which is quite scarce and costly) a thorough review of all projects had been carried out by the Ministry of Railways. During the review, it was realised that, execution work on 99 projects of total length 8,810 km is held up for various reasons, viz. non-acquisition of land by State Government, forestry issues, no response of the State Government for sharing the cost of the project, non-adhering by the State Government to the already committed cost-sharing arrangement for cost-sharing projects, projects financially unviable, law and order problems etc. Since Railway resources were getting wasted without commensurate returns, hence, Railway had no option but to temporarily freeze such projects for further expenditure. Most of these projects are un-remunerative in nature as well.
Therefore, expenditure on 99 projects only have been temporarily kept in abeyance, not 500 projects as claimed in the article of Shri Srinand Jha.
Based on a review of projects, funds were allocated in a rational manner. Hence, the money has been allotted to the projects which are in advance stage of completion, important New Line & National Projects, executable & Important Gauge Conversion projects and the projects which are important from the throughput enhancement considerations. Thus, the focused attention is given in fund allotment, rather than thinly spreading the resources, as no organisation in the world can have unlimited funds for execution of projects, the statement adds.
The statement also notes that the rate of commissioning of projects have vastly improved during the Narendra Modi government compared to Manmohan Singh government. 7386 km were commissioned during UPA-I and 7599 km during UPA-II govt, a total of 13124 km was commissioned during the first perm of Modi govt.
Some of the highlights of project commissioning during UPA and NDA govt are:
- Commissioning of new line during 2014-19 was 3035 Km against 1727 Km during 2009-14, which is 76% more w.r.t. 2009-14.
- Commissioning of Doubling during 2014-19 was 6096 Km (including 1000 km of DFC) against 1875 Km during 2009-14, which is 225% more w.r.t. 2009-14.
- 2,519 km of doubling/3rd line/4th line (including 1000 km of DFC) has been commissioned during 2018-19, which is highest ever in the History of Railways.
- Average commissioning per day has been 7.2 Km/day during 2014-19, in comparison to 4.1 Km per day from 2004-14, which is around 75% more w.r.t. 2004-14.
- During 2018-19, 3596 Km New Line/Gauge conversion/Doubling (including DFC) has been commissioned at a pace of 9.85 Km/ day, which is highest ever progress.
- During 2014-19, 111 complete projects were commissioned of 9,565 Km length costing around Rs.70,000 Cr.
- During the last 5 years, 245 projects (53 New line, 26 Gauge Conversion & 166 Doubling) of 20,572 Km & costing around Rs. 2.5 Lakh Crore have been included in the budget.
- Budget Outlay (without PPP) during 2014-19 was Rs. 1,30,131 Cr. against Rs. 57,635 Cr. during 2009-14, which is 126% more w.r.t. 2009-14.
The Budget outlay for 2019-20 was initially Rs. 30198 Cr., which subsequently increased to Rs. 38,803 Cr., which is 237% more than Average Annual outlay of 2009-14 (Rs. 11,527 Cr). 96% of Indian Railway traffic moves on around 51% route Km of network, which needs to be decongested by multi-tracking, so that, bottlenecks in the system can be removed for enhancing Safety, punctuality and ensuring faster & heavier movement of traffic. Therefore, as per the push given by PM Modi, for fast pace execution of projects, a new paradigm shift has taken place in the planning of projects, so that, available resources are utilized judiciously for optimum results.
Contrary to claim made by The Print that no review and prioritisation of projects have taken place, the statement informs that 58 Super Critical & 68 Critical projects have been identified for resource allocation and execution at a faster pace. Super critical projects are targeted for completion by December 2021 and Critical projects by March 2024. So far, 11 Super Critical Projects of around 451 Km length & costing around Rs. 4500 Cr. have been completed & commissioned, out of which, 9 Super Critical Projects (including 1 in North-East Region) of around 326 Km length & costing around Rs. 3500 Cr. have been completed & commissioned in current year. During 2019-20 so far, 25 projects of around 1168 Km length have been fully completed & commissioned. During 2019-20 itself, the section from Haldibari to International Border (Bangladesh) was commissioned in January 2020.
The Railway network also greatly expanded in the North East Region, which had seen minimal expansion after what was built by British govt before 2014. In the last 6 years, all Gauge conversion works in North East Region have been completed. Barak Valley in Assam, Manipur, Mizoram got connected to Broad Gauge network during this period. Capitals of three states, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh & Tripura, have been connected with main Indian Railway network and works are in progress on remaining five.
The statement issued by the Indian Railways says that the completion of any Railway project depends on various factors like quick land acquisition by State Government, forest clearance by officials of forest department, tree cutting permission, shifting of infringing utilities (both underground and overground), statutory clearances from various authorities, geological and topographical conditions of area, law and order situation in the area of project site, number of working months in a year for particular project site due to climatic considerations, encountering unforeseen conditions like earthquake, flooding, excessive rains, strikes of labour, orders of Hon’ble Courts, situation and conditions of working agencies/contractors etc. All these factors vary from project to project and site to site and affect the completion time and cost of the project.
Talking about plans for future, the statement says that Indian Railway has decided to complete 7 national projects in the 5 years, which are Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramula new line, Bhairabi-Sairang new line, Dimapur – Kohima new line, Jiribam-Imphal new line, Tetelyia-Bynihat new line, Bhanupali-Bilaspur-Beri new line and Sivok-Rangpo new line. Projects connecting India with Nepal & Bangladesh have been taken up & planned to be completed in the next five years.
Talking about specific held up projects mentioned in The Print article, the statement says that most of them are held up due to non-cooperation of state governments. Bargachia-Champadanga project, Sivok-Rangpo new line project, modifications in Champadanga-Tarakeshwar, Amta-Bagnan & Janghipara-Furfura Sharif sectors are held up due to non-acquisition of land by West Bengal govt. Ratlam-Dungarpur via Banswara is held up because Rajasthan govt is not honouring their commitment of providing land free of cost and sharing 50% construction cost of the project. Ankola-Hubli new line project is held up due to court cases, forestry and wildlife clearances etc. For Araria-Galgalia new line project, only 50% of the land has been handed over by the Bihar government.
Therefore, these projects are stalled not because of lack of funds as claimed by The Print, but they are stalled because of various issued which are beyond the control of Railways. Most of them are held up because of the inability of the state governments to acquire and hand over land, while others are stuck in courts.
Moreover, the claim that only ₹1000 per year has been allocated for 498 projects is an absolute lie, as explained in detail. Only 99 projects are held up due to various reasons, most of which are not under the control of Railways.