The Rail Budget was watched keenly for pointers to what the Union Budget – billed as a make-or-break presentation on Saturday – will hold.
As he read his speech, his first ever, chartered accountant turned politician Suresh Prabhu began to earn some applause. He resisted the temptation of announcing new trains and projects aimed at his constituency as so many of his predecessors have done.
He did not hike passenger fares, giving relief to millions of Indians for whom the railways remain the most affordable and preferred mode of transportation.
As he finished, Mr Prabhu’s Railway Budget was described as a “Rockstar” Budget by an analyst from EY Abhaya Agarwal.
“Whatever you wanted to hear in terms of productivity, investments…it is there.” he said.
But in his 67-minute speech, Mr Prabhu failed to mention the hike in freight charges that will kick in on April 1, 2015. The share of freight carried by railways has been declining because tariffs in India are among the highest in the world. Analysts are surprised that Mr Prabhu, a known reformer, failed to appreciate the much-highlighted fact.
Once the small print was read, many analysts pointed that the hike in freight rates has come at a time when fuel prices have gone down, which is an irony.
Investment banker R. Balakrishnan tweeted, “Nice. Lower fuel prices balanced by higher freight charges. Railway