History of Indian Railway Budget – Reminiscences!

In 1921, British railway economist, William Mitchell Acworth was appointed chairman of the Committee on Indian Railways. The report of the committee, known as the “Acworth Report”, led to reorganization of Indian Railways; thus separating the railway finances of India from the general government finances. In short, this led to creation of a separate Railway Budget, an arrangement which continues in independent India today.

India’s first Finance Minister, Sir R.K. Shanmugham Chetty, presented the first Finance Budget of independent India on November 26, 1947. It was a review of the economy and no new taxes were proposed as the budget day for 1948-49 was just 95 days away.

K.C. Neogy then took charge of the Finance portfolio and held that office for just 35 days.

John Mathai became the third Finance Minister of India presenting the budget for 1950-51, the first budget for the Republic of India.

The next Finance Minister, C.D. Deshmukh presented the first budget in the first elected Parliament on the basis of adult franchise.

Budget papers began to be prepared in Hindi from 1955-56. Initially, major attention was paid towards the agriculture sector but as the economy evolved, the focus shifted from agriculture to other sectors like industry and finance.

In 1959, Morarji Desai became the Finance Minister. After the fourth General Elections in 1967, Morarji Desai once again became the Finance Minister. This was his second time. He has presented ten budgets till date. They included five annual and one interim budget during his first stint and three final and one interim in the second tenure when he was both Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

After Desai resigned, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, took over the Finance portfolio.

The shortest ever interim budget speech was just 800 words and delivered by H. M. Patel in 1977.

Rajiv Gandhi presented the budget for 1987-88 after V P Singh quit his government, and in the process became only the third Prime Minister to present a budget after his mother and grandfather.

Yashwant Sinha became the Finance Minister and presented the interim budget for 1991-92.

In the election held in May 1991, the Congress returned to power and Shri Manmohan Singh became the Finance Minister. This was the first occasion when the interim and final budgets were presented by two ministers of two different political parties.

After the elections another non-Congress ministry assumed office.

So, a final budget for 1996-97 was presented by Shri P. Chidambaram of the then Tamil Maanila Congress. It was the second time that an interim and final budget was presented by two ministers of different political parties.

Following a constitutional crisis, the I.K. Gujral Ministry was on its way out, and a special session of Parliament was convened only to pass Shri Chidambaram’s 1997-98 budget.

In 2000, Mamata Banerjee became the first women Railway Minister of India. In the year 2002, she also became the first female Minister of Railways to present the Railway budget. She holds the record of being the only women who presented the railway budget for two different governments in the centre (NDA and UPA).

First live telecast of railway budget took place on 24 March 1994. Lalu Prasad Yadav, who remained Railways Minister from 2004 to May 2009, presented the railway budget six times in a row.

Some finer points of Railway Budget 2023:–

  1. In 2014 railway budget, Railway Minister D. V. Sadananda Gowda announced the first railway budget, under the Modi regime.
  2. Making some startling revelations on how the Indian railways was run over the past ten years, Gowda said, “”Madam Speaker, I am sure, my esteemed predecessors were aware of this precarious situation, but they, however, fell prey to the ‘nasha’ of claps in the House when they announced these projects.”
  3. There was ruckus in parliament over non-allocation of more new trains.
  4. Opposition roared when the Minister announced the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train.
  5. The minister used the word “safety” was used a dozen of times.
  6. Gowda also mentioned Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda in his speech once each.
  7. Gowda mentioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name four times, and former prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee was mentioned once.
  8. Opposition interrupted the minister a dozen of times during the budget speech.
  9. Sensex hit new highs of 26,190.44 ahead of Railway Budget but crashed by over 550 points post the presentation.
  10. Gowda read quotes four times during his speech, twice in Sanskrit, once in English and once in Kannada. He ended the Railway Budget with quote in Kannada.
  11. Hey Prabhu‘: Railway Minister puns on his Name, amuses Indian Parliament. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 26th February, 2016 amused parliamentarians by liberally punning on his own name during his speech. “Our priority is to improve the capacity in the high density section. But I thought, hey Prabhu (oh God), how will it happen,” he said, drawing laughs in the Lok Sabha. “Prabhu (God) didn’t answer, so this Prabhu thought, why can’t we do something?”
  12. Eventually, Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu himself became the last Minister of Railways to present a 92 year old tradition of presenting Railway Budget in the Parliament of India, which was subsequently been passed on to the Ministry of Finance.
  13. On 1st February, 2023, Union Minister of Finance Mr.Arun Jaitley presented the Railway Budget as a part of the Budget 2023.

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