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Cabinet meet on Wednesday to decide on rail budget merger, Winter Session timing
Tuesday September 20, 2016 10:25 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The government's move to advance the Winter Session of Parliament to the second week of November and merger of the Railway Budget with the General Budget from next year may figure on the Cabinet agenda during its meeting on Wednesday, official sources said here.

The sources said the Cabinet and its Committee on Political Affairs may make a formal recommendation on these lines.

Certain quarters in the government also favour advancing the general budget session to January-end.

The moves are aimed at facilitating the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) system by April 1, 2017, and to ensure that the government gets adequate time for a parliamentary nod to supporting bills.

The holding of the Winter Session of Parliament in the second week of November will help in the quick passage of the Central GST Bill and also the Integrated GST Bill. By the first week of December, the government wants to clear the legislative works, the source said.

Meanwhile, the sources confirmed that the Finance Ministry is revamping the budget-making exercise to facilitate merger of rail budget with the general one.

According to new proposals, the integrated budget may be presented to both houses of Parliament on January 31.

The government sources said earlier that the merger will help cash-strapped Indian Railways save about Rs 10,000 crore annually.

On August 2, the Lok Sabha adopted a resolution under which the Railways Ministry sought to question the practice of Railways paying dividends to the government.

The Railways pay about Rs 10,000 crore as dividend annually. The first Report of Railway Convention Committee (2014), appointed to review the rate of dividend payable by the Railway Undertaking to the general revenue, had also favoured against payment of the dividends, the sources said.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had also said: "This payment of dividends to the Finance Ministry (by Railways) is one area which really needs to be looked into. Why should the Railways pay dividend?"

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and senior officials from the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), last week reviewed the government's preparation on the same.

The sources said there have been progress on various steps needed for the rollout of the GST vis-a-vis the preparation of the model GST laws and rules to be framed thereof, establishment of IT infrastructure for both at the Centre and states.

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