New Delhi: In a move set to attract investments, the Union cabinet on Wednesday approved the setting up of a regulator for the railways—the Rail Development Authority (RDA).

The long-awaited regulator will perform four primary functions—tariff determination; ensuring fair play and level playing field for stakeholder investment; setting efficiency and performance standards; and dissemination of information, Frank Noronha, principal spokesperson of the Union government said after a cabinet meeting.

In Budget 2017, the National Democratic Alliance government made a record allocation of Rs1.3 trillion for the Indian Railways, with gross budgetary support of Rs55,000 crore.

The regulator, to be headed by a chairman and comprising three members, will have a five-year term and be empowered to engage experts, Noronha tweeted.

As part of the radical rethinking on improving the transportation architecture, the government did away with the separate railway budget, merging it in the Union budget presented on 1 February.

The cabinet also approved a number of pacts to be signed between India and Bangladesh during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina beginning Friday.

One of the pacts is to launch regular passenger river cruise services between India and Bangladesh, the government said in a statement.

Mint reported on 29 March that India was pulling out all the stops to operationalize the passenger ferry service to Bangladesh in preparation for Hasina’s visit.

Hasina’s visit during 7-10 April is aimed at strengthening Bangladesh’s ties with India, Asia’s third-largest economy.

The cabinet also approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh for fairway development of the Ashuganj-Zakiganj stretch of Kushiyara river and Sirajganj-Daikhawa stretch of Jamuna river in the Indo-Bangladesh protocol route by undertaking necessary dredging, jointly by the two countries.

This would considerably reduce the cost of cargo movement to North Eastern India, a government statement said, adding that it will also reduce congestion through the Siliguri Chicken’s Neck corridor.

The move comes in the backdrop of India’s interest in accessing transnational multi-modal connectivity and playing an important role in the proposed transportation architecture in the region and beyond.

Another pact that was given the cabinet’s nod on Wednesday was in the field of judicial cooperation between India and Bangladesh.

“The MoU provides for promoting mutual interaction among judges and officials.. It will also encourage mutual exchange of information on latest developments in the field of law and justice. It will enable exchange of knowledge in infrastructure and information technology in this field," another government statement said.

India-Bangladesh ties have seen an upswing since the two countries completed procedures for the ratification of a 1974 border pact during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka visit in 2015.

However, there is no consensus yet on another issue—the sharing of the waters of Teesta and Feni rivers.

The Teesta, which has its source in Sikkim, flows through the northern part of West Bengal before entering Bangladesh and joining the Brahmaputra.

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