Suresh Prabhu: Railways still needs huge investments

M K Venu

Railway-Minister-Suresh-PrabhuRailways Minister Suresh Prabhu was this week’s special guest on Rajya Sabha TV’s programme State of the Economy. The Minister spoke on varied issues ranging from the growth achieved by the Modi government to how the Railways plans to cough up funds for investment. He was speaking to MK Venu, the Founding Editor of The Wire.

How do you see things evolving in the macro economy?

The world global economy continues to be very grim. US is not growing fast, Europe still is in trouble and China is static. We have been able solve a lot of problems…I will give a compliment to honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The phenomenal growth of India grabbed achievement by around 8% growth rates.

Should we be satisfied with 7.9% growth? Going by the old GDP series you will probably still be around 6.5%, isn’t it?

It’s a real growth. Monsoon is going to be good and favourable. Banking system is getting unblocked. Private sector balance sheets are reflecting better. Railways and the roads are showing signs of green shoots. Make in India is also making significant contribution in India.

Will railway also be the biggest employment provider? GDP growth is no good unless it is accompanied by employment. So we can’t afford jobless growth at this stage when 10 million people increase the labour force every year. According to the data provided by the Railways, 9 crore new employment will be provided, where is the employment going to come from?

The profile of employment is changing. It is no longer true that people who you pay to, are employees alone. We are underestimating our organisations. Railways is now laying new tracks – upto 19 kms per day, which is phenomenal. Maharashtra itself is planning to invest Rs. 79 cr in Railways.

Where does the railway fund come from?

The fund for Railway comes from borrowing, funding and equity. The fund is no longer an issue, it is the railway land for construction which is a bigger issue.

How many states tied up with the Railway project which you signed?

Sixteen states have JV’s with Railways.

Your plans are very ambitious. In the next 3-4 years your interest burden will also increase because of so much spending. I noticed the Railways broadly raises one-third of their funds through central govt. budget, one- third through borrowing and one-third through its own resources. Your own resources will be very minimal so either most of the fund will have to come from borrowing or budgetary support. Is that true?

First of all, fund is going into investment and investment is needed here. Investment is imperative, unavoidable and essential. I let you know that our debt or equity ratio is far lesser than any Railways in the world. Survival of the railways investment is must.

How do you communicate with the customers?

We are communicating with our customers through social media like twitter. Twitter is there to express their experiences, grievances and happiness.

But, your regional manager told me that they are harassed by the complaints of customers on twitter…

We are trying to address the complaints of customers on social media but certain structural issues of policies cannot be taken on twitter.