New Delhi: The Indian Railways has spent Rs 920 crore on Covid-19 related activities, even as it is expected to incur massive revenue losses because of the suspension of passenger trains, ThePrint has learnt.
According to sources, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is set to reimburse the expenditure incurred so far by the Ministry of Railways on Covid-19-related activities, after a decision in this regard is taken by the Union Cabinet.
The railways ministry has already sent a bill of Rs 920 crore to the health ministry, funds for which will come out of the Rs 15,000-crore Covid-19 fund set aside by the central government.
According to the Railway Board, the activities for which the railways are being reimbursed include setting up of isolation wards, conversion of railway coaches into isolation wards and medical units, the operation and management expenses of these converted coaches, sanitisation and cleaning, procurement of additional medicines for Covid-19, PPE (personal protective equipment) kits, other equipment like ventilators, etc.
“While according to the railways, these are the expenses for which it should be reimbursed, the cabinet is yet to take a decision in this regard,” a senior railway official said.
“Zonal railways will give the details of expenditure on these items to the Railway Board, and then the cabinet will decide based on the information provided by the Ministry of Railways,” the official added.
Huge losses for railways due to Covid-19
The Indian Railways has emerged as a significant player in the Narendra Modi government’s fight against the Covid-19 outbreak. However, it is expected to incur massive losses as a result of suspension of all passenger trains and select freight trains carrying non-essential items since a nationwide lockdown was imposed last week to contain the outbreak spread.
While there has been no formal estimate of the losses incurred by the national carrier, senior railway officials said it could range from anything between Rs 150-200 crore a day.
“All passenger trains are suspended, and freight movement is also restricted to bare essentials, so we are looking at a loss of Rs 150-200 crore a day,” said an official who didn’t wish to be named.
According to sources, provisional estimates suggest the railways earnings stood at Rs 1.23 lakh crore for the 2019-2020 fiscal. This is about Rs 2,135 crore lower than its earnings of Rs 1.25 lakh crore for 2018-19.
Last week, the Western Railways said that it had incurred a loss of over Rs 100 crore between 23 and 30 March.
However, a second senior Railway official said the losses suffered by the Railways cannot be seen in monetary terms alone. “At a time like this, Railways is trying to do all what it can to save lives, monetary losses do not matter,” said the official.