There will be no separate railway budget from next financial year, putting an end to a practice that started in 1924, with the finance ministry agreeing to the proposal to merge the transporter's annual exercise with the general budget.
The finance ministry has constituted a five-member committee of officers to work out the modalities for the exercise, which will end the annual budget speech, often followed closely for project announcements, by the railway minister. The move is significant as in recent years, particularly since coalition governments post-1996, political heavyweights have used the railway budget to hand out goodies and for their own image building. With the railway portfolio often held by regional biggies, the budget reflected political priorities of the incumbent. The railway bureaucracy has also dug in its heels in the past.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhuâ€™s readiness to give up the limelight is a break from the past as BJP seems in a position to dump the railway budget as its solid majority in Lok Sabha enabled it to retain the portfolio rather than handing it to an ally.
Once the overall funds are allocated, railways will then segregate them for various purposes with sources indicating that the model will be similar to the one for the postal department.