Cabinet approves merger of railway budget with general budget

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arun jaitley- 4The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to merge the Railway Budget with the General Budget from 2017-18 onwards thereby ending a tradition followed from 1924.

After the Cabinet meeting, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “The Rail Budget will be merged with the General Budget; there will only be one budget from next year onwards.”

“However, we will strive to maintain the functional autonomy of Indian Railway,” he added.

With this, the railway’s convention panel will be dissolved and the railways will be treated as other major sectors are in the main budget. This apart, the finance ministry will get the railway’s revenue deficit and capital expenditure.

The move to merge the two budgets into one was taken after a two-member panel comprising Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai recommended that it be scrapped.

The Early budget presentation would mean the exercise would be over by March 31, and expenditure and tax proposals would come into effect from the new fiscal’s beginning.

To facilitate this, the budget session of Parliament will be called sometime before January 25, a month ahead of the current practice.

In view of the forthcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab next year, the government wants to go ahead with the merger to ensure proper utilisation of monies.

Also, the government will have to present a single Appropriation Bill instead of two, including the estimates of Ministry of Railways, thereby saving time of Parliament.