• Roads, Railways & Power may get Rs 25,000 crore push

    The government is mulling an additional Rs 25,000 crore allocation to roads, railways and power sectors over and above the allocation made to them in the Union Budget, potentially providing a mid-year boost to public spending.

    All three ministries — road transport and highways, railways and power — are currently in advanced talks with the finance ministry to secure additional allocation.

    The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is also pushing for enhanced allocation in these sectors, which coupled with recent reforms, would boost the economic growth of the country.

    The finance ministry has asked the ministries to come up with the final list of projects that would be undertaken with additional budgetary funding, a senior government official said.

    The road ministry had soughtRs 15,000 crore as additional allocation, a senior official with the ministry said. However, it has been assured of Rs 10,000 crore by the finance ministry. The highway construction target for the current fiscal year has been set at 15,000 km (41 km a day), which would cost aroundRs 1.5 lakh crore. However, total allocation made to the ministry in the budget has been Rs 57,000 crore along with the permission to raise tax-free bonds worth Rs 15,000 crore.

    The ministry hopes to raise the remaining amount through funding from Life Insurance Corporation and Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and by leasing out its completed projects to private equity firms and pension funds. Despite 21 policy changes in recent months, private sector investment is yet to pick up in the roads sector.

    According to the road ministry official, the additional allocation would be used for four laining the existing highways and for upgrading the state highways into national highways.

    The railways ministry, which is facing its worst ever financial crunch due to falling revenues and increased project costs, is likely to get an impetus of Rs 12,000 crore. “The additional gross budgetary support (GBS) is likely to be used for clearing stuck projects, upgrading and modernizing the safety of railway lines and decongesting some of its routes. Some high traction electrification projects could also be taken up,” a senior railway board official said.

    The Railways has a target of constructing 7 km of rail lines per day. In the current year, it has received Rs 45,000 crore as gross budgetary support (GBS) and its total Plan outlay for the year is Rs 1.21 lakh crore. The ministry would also have to bear the burden of the seventh Pay Commission and its wage bill would go up by at least Rs 29,000 crore due to this.

    The power ministry is hopeful of getting Rs 3,000 crore. It has a target of electrifying at least 14,000 villages across the country. Justin Smoak Jersey

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