The Railways are not being privatised, but are trying to rope in private players to utilise its assets, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee reiterated in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Replying to the debate on the Appropriation Bill that the House considered and returned, Ms. Banerjee said the Railways were reeling under the impact of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, and the increase in the price of high-speed diesel and excise duties.
The Lok Sabha passed the Bill on Monday.
The Railways had to pay Rs.55,000 crore to its 14 lakh-plus employees, and another Rs.20,000 crore in pension and salary. The rise in the diesel price and excise duties dented the revenue by Rs. 885 crore.
Ms. Banerjee urged the members to urge the State governments to invest in infrastructure development. The Railways were encouraging public-private partnership by offering a share to those willing to invest in its land.
“There is no privatisation, but we need funds to develop infrastructure and new lines, while the assets remain with us,” she said. Now the Railways needed Rs. 1 lakh crore for the pending projects against the current spending of Rs.11,000 crore.
As for recruitment, she said the process had begun. The Railways decided to reserve 20 per cent of the posts of gangmen for ex-servicemen.
The debate also saw a brief verbal duel between CPI (M) member Brinda Karat and Ms. Banerjee. Ms. Karat highlighted the suffering of disabled passengers because there was no water on board a special train from Howrah to Delhi, and said the 12-hour delay in its arrival added to their woes.
While the Minister was launching Duronto super-fast trains, the passengers of the special train were subjected to inhuman treatment though the Railways collected Rs. 70 lakh in charges.
Ms. Banerjee charged Ms. Karat with trying to politicise the issue.
Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed said the train was delayed at departure, as the passengers took time to load their luggage.
It was detained at Mughalsarai, en route, when the women passengers occupied the train toilets to take bath and the male passengers got off to bathe in the open.
The passengers complained of water shortage at the Sultanpur station, and the tank was filled in Lucknow, since Sultanpur did not have the facility.