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Railways hits a jackpot under Lalu

May 22 Borrowing a few initiatives from his predecessor Nitish Kumar, and introducing many measures of his own, Lalu Prasad is most likely to be remembered as the most successful railway minister of all times. Under his tutelage, Indian Railways seems to have hit the jackpot and is sitting on a cash surplus of Rs 25,065.49 crore. Its operating ratio too has come down to an all time low of 76.3% in 2007-08 as compared to 92.1% in 2003-04.
This is no mean feat considering that when Prasad took over the reins in 2004, Railways as he often points out was a “loss making public sector undertaking.” The real turnaround of railway fortunes began a year later when in 2005 railways reported a closing fund balance of Rs 6,963 crore.
However, Prasad did introduce a number of freight incentives that have brought in megabucks for the Indian Railways. When he took over, Railways carried a mere 557.39 mt of freight, which has now risen to 794 mt in 2007-08. He also introduced the rather controversial measure of increasing the axle load of wagons, thereby allowing more freight to be carried by a single wagon. Though will take a toll on the railway tracks.
However, the turnaround now seems to be coming full circle. In 2008-09, Prasad’s last year as railway minister under the UPA government, the railway cash reserve is expected to drop marginally to Rs 24,782.98 crore. Its operating ratio is also estimated to increase to 81.4% during the fiscal, due to the impact of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission

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