There is no plan to privatise Indian Railways as it belongs to the people of the country, Railways Minister Piyush Goyal asserted in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday after some members raised concerns over it.
Replying to a discussion on the working of the Ministry of Railways, Goyal announced an investment of Rs 50 lakh crore in the national transporter over the next 12 years.
“I want to make it crystal clear that there is no plan or proposal to privatise Indian Railways, it will not happen. Indian Railways belongs to the people of this country, it will remain so,” Goyal said.
Keeping in mind development of the railways, the government may, however, bring in a few services under private sector in order to provide better services to the passengers, he added.
Participating in the discussion, several Rajya Sabha members raised concerns over the poor financial health of the railways, a decline in job opportunities and delay in execution of major projects, besides privatisation of the national transporter.
Goyal said the government was committed to making Indian Railways world-class in every aspect.
“In the next 12 years we are going to invest Rs 50 lakh crore in the Indian Railways. We will do it in public-private partnership. We will also give the chance to the people of this country to be part of this process,” he added.
Goyal, in reply to allegations by Trinamool Congress member Derek O’Brien, said that sharing of funds between the Centre and state governments for new railway projects was started during the UPA regime of which the Trinamool Congress was a part, and it was inherited by the BJP as a legacy.
The Minister, however, added it was “not a bad practice”.
Goyal cited various news reports on the performance of the railways under former Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Bannerjee. “I don’t want to politicise the issue of losses,” he added.
O’Brien had alleged step-motherly treatment to states governed by parties other than the BJP, particularly West Bengal.
Responding to complaints of delay in work, Goyal said that over the last five years the government has taken steps to speed up various projects.
“In 2014-15 the capex (capital expenditure) for the Indian Railways stood at Rs 58,000 crore. This year Rs 1.61 lakh crore capex is going to happen. This investment has led to unprecedented work,” the Minister noted.
Elaborating on the achievements of the government, he said that barring a few in Rajasthan, unmanned level crossings have ceased to exist on the board gauge network across the country.
On electrification of tracks, he said that out of stated target to convert 6,000 km last year, the government has been able to complete 5,276 km.
In 2013-14, the length of electrified tracks in the country stood at of just 610 kms, he noted.
“Looking at the dedication of the railways employees, I have confidence that we will be able to achieve the target of full electrification by 2023-24,” Goyal said.
He said that the government has identified 58 projects as “super critical” and 68 projects as “critical” and the railways is working to complete them on priority.
He said that if the government gets support from the state governments in terms of land acquisition, investment, the projects could be implemented with greater speed.
Commenting specifically on West Bengal, he said there were issues of land encroachment in the state which have had impact on various projects.
Earlier participating in the debate, Minister of State of Railways Suresh Angadi said there were encroachments on both sides of tracks in West Bengal.
He said that during the protests against the amended citizenship law, maximum damage to railways property took place in the state.
Citing the example of Kerala, Goyal sought help from the members to speed up projects across the country.
“Help us get land, if we get land and the state government’s share of investment, we will be able to fast-track the projects,” he said.
He said the Katra-Banihal rail line in Jammu and Kashmir would be completed by August 2022.
Citing other achievements, Goyal said the Rai Bareli rail coach factory would roll out a record 2,000 coaches this year.
He added that the Indian Railways has traced problem of water-logging in 2,044 underpasses, out of the total 8,519 in the country.
“We have solved the issue in 715 of the underpasses so far and the rest would be rectified in the next few months,” Goyal said.
He said that about 99.5 per cent work on bio-toilets was complete and the rest would be completed soon.
Goyal said that in order to achieve zero carbon emissions, the Indian Railways plans to generate 20,000 megawatt of electricity through solar infrastructure, helping it meet its entire supply requirement.