There is “no question” of privatisation of the Indian Railways, but the Railway Ministry will invite investments for new technology, lines and projects in the national interest, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said in the Lok Sabha in response to the debate on Demands for Grants for his Ministry on Friday.
“There is no question of privatisation of the railways. It cannot be privatised. However, if we have to increase the facilities in railways, then obviously we need investments for it. We have taken a decision to encourage public-private partnerships and we will also corporatise some units. We should invite investments in the national interest if someone is ready to get new technology, new stations, projects and lines. The work for a Dedicated Freight Corridor started in 2007. From 2007 to 2014, they had not even managed one kilometre of track linking. We took on this work and in just five years, we have completed 1900 km of track linking,” he said.
Mr. Goyal took on the Congress to make his point that the Narendra Modi government had done much better compared to the previous United Progressive Alliance government (UPA) in giving a fillip to both infrastructure and railway safety.
The Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli (UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s constituency) had not produced a single coach till 2014 when the National Democratic Alliance government took over, he alleged. The government, he said, wanted the coach factory to increase its manufacturing capacity to 5,000 and the trains coming out of there go to the entire world and making it the largest factory in the world.
During the minister’s hour-long speech, there were frequent protests by Congress members. Their leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury accused him of misleading the House and he was backed by his party colleagues.
Mr. Goyal defended the decision to discontinue tabling of a separate railway Budget in Parliament, calling them “political budgets” that were used to sell dreams of new trains and railway lines to people for winning elections.
On the railways’ safety record, he said that between 2004 and 2009, around 206 accidents took place every year, while the number was 153 between 2009 and 2011. During the BJP's tenure, it reduced to around 100 every year.
‘Problem in West Bengal’
The Minister hit out at successive governments in West Bengal, saying several projects had been held up because the State was unable to provide land to the railways. “The oldest project in West Bengal is running from 1974-75. The projects don’t get completed because the government doesn't give us land. If they give us land, work will immediately start,” he said, adding that similar problems were faced in Kerala too.
Mr. Goyal's reference to the alleged inaction of the UPA government after the Mumbai train blasts that occurred on July 11, 2006, drew loud protests from the Congress, with its members shouting “shame on you”.
He asserted that such terrorists would have been given a befitting reply had Mr. Modi been in power.