The Railways had to write off Rs 71.86 crore it spent as excess subsidy on Kisan Rail Services last fiscal after the Ministry of Food Processing Industries refused to bear the additional cost citing a Rs 50-crore ceiling for the initiative, documents show.
According to official data, the Railways spent Rs 121.86 crore as subsidy under the scheme which is more than double the amount of Rs 50 crore sanctioned in 2021-22 by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) for the pro-farmer initiative.
The national transporter was forced to “write off” the excess expenditure of Rs 71.86 crore after the MoFPI — the nodal ministry for implementing the ‘Operation Greens – TOP to total’ scheme under which Kisan Rails operate — deciding not to reimburse the outstanding amount.
Under the scheme, a 50 per cent subsidy is offered directly to farmers and traders on railway transportation charges for fruits and vegetables. A ceiling of Rs 50 crore was set by the MoFPI as a subsidy for the last fiscal. The amount is reimbursed by the MoFPI.
In a response to a query by PTI, the Railways said the subsidy was introduced by the MoFPI. It said the Railways spent Rs 121.86 crore during 2021-22, while only Rs 50 crore was reimbursed by the MoFPI.
“Matter of reimbursement of the remaining amount of Rs 71.86 crores was taken repeatedly with MoFPI. However, MoFPI has informed that the allocation of any additional funds for the purpose is not possible, which leaves no scope for its recovery.
“These remaining amount of Rs. 71.86 crores was showing as outstanding in Railway A/C books. Hence, the same has been written-off with the approval of the Minister of Railways,” the ministry told PTI.
This comes at a time when the Railways has asked its zones to tighten their purse string and fare concessions of different types remain suspended.
The Kisan Rail Services were launched in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic in August 2020 with an aim to increase the farm sector income by connecting production centres to markets and consumption hubs.
As many as 1,851 trains were operated in 2021-22 under the services, while in the ongoing fiscal 63 have been run till August, according to official figures.