Centre may make AADHAR mandatory for Rail Concession in Budget

NEW DELHI: The Government is contemplating making Aadhaar or Unique Identification (UID) card mandatory to avail of rail concession, and an announcement is likely to be made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley while presenting the first combined General and Railway Budget on February 1.

The move will help the government in better targeting benefits and check misuse of the facility, sources said.

The Railways provides concession on tickets to more than 50 categories of passengers which include senior citizens, students, research scholars, teacher, doctor, nurse, patients, sports people, unemployed youth and Arjun awardees, among others.

At present, Railways is running a pilot project for senior citizens, who are entitled to rail concessions.

The concessional tickets cost the Railways about Rs.1,600 crore in 2015-16, with the bulk being accounted for by senior citizens.

According to government data, over 100 crore Aadhaar cards have been issued so for, covering the bulk of India’s population.

The government has decided to end the 92-year-old practice of presenting a separate Railway budget and has merged it with the General Budget.

Jaitley, according to sources, will contribute a few pages of his Budget to programmes and schemes related to the Indian Railways.

Although there will be a single Budget, the Railways will continue to have autonomy as commercial undertaking and the existing financial arrangement will remain.

The Railways is expected to get exemption from payment of dividend to the Union Government, a move which will help strengthen its finances.

The organisation will also get Budget support to meet part of its capital expenditure and will be allowed to raise extra budgetary resources.

According to sources, Railways would continue to bear the expenditure on social and public service obligations.

It is also expected that Jaitley will present a separate statement of Budget estimates and demand for grants for the Railways in the General Budget.

There will also be a single Appropriation Bill, including the estimates of the Railways, to the Parliament.