The government has no plans to privatise the Indian Railways, Union Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday informed Parliament following questions raised over the issue by the Opposition.
“It is a pure hypothetical point...The track belongs to Indian Railways, stations…engines…coaches…electrical wires…signalling systems…[all] belong to Railways...[there is] no talk of privatisation...No plans to privatise railways,” the Minister said while replying to a discussion on Demands for Grants for the Railway Ministry for 2022-23 in the Lok Sabha.
Asked about the declining operating ratio for the Indian Railways, he said that the social obligation amount for the Railways in terms of subsidy for passenger services is a little over ₹60,000 crore. Without this amount, the operating ratio for the Railways, he said, would be around 85% instead of the current just under 100%. He, however, added that this would improve due to steps taken by Railways to increase revenues from freight.
Talking about the government’s vision for the Railways, the Minister said they were working on increasing passenger carrying capacity to 1,000 crore passengers annually from the 800 crore now, as well as freight loading to about 3,000 million tonnes from about over 1,400 million tonnes.
“We need to reach at least [₹]3 lakh crore investment annually... We need to bring a lot of reforms for this...,” he added.
The Minister also hit back at the Opposition for terming the government's proposals as "propaganda" and "Mungeri Lal ke haseen sapne" (fanciful dreams), stating that the Indian Railways was reeling under "policy paralysis" during the United Progress Alliance (UPA) regime and was brought back on track after the Narendra Modi-led government came to power in 2014.
He added that one of the main problems for the Railways was lack of investments, and the Modi government on an average allocated capital investment of ₹95,000 crore annually between 2014-2019 from ₹45,980 crore in 2004-2014.
“These are hard facts, actual achievements. Is this a propaganda?” he asked, adding that the “problem with them [the Opposition] is something else…While our Prime Minister is working day and night to build the nation, nobody knows when and where their leaders go on vacation.”
On bullet trains, he further added that, “Who says bullet trains cannot run on Indian soil?…It is shameful that those who talk about ' maa, maati, manush' have no faith in ' maa, maati, manush'...We must have faith in our own engineers. For how long will we depend on foreigners?"