Govt hints at ‘tough and unpopular steps’ to improve health of Indian railways – Times of India

Promising to transform the railways soon, the government on Tuesday hinted at taking “tough” and unpopular steps to improve the condition of the cash-strapped largest state-run transporter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to transformation of the railways and “I assure you it will happen soon,” Minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha said at the India Rail Summit. He went on to add, “Some tough steps will have to be taken for restructuring of railways. Though many will not like it but we have to do it.”

The minister, however, did not elaborate on the measures, saying, “When the steps are taken, you will see it yourself.”

The railways is incurring losses to the tune of about Rs 25,000 crore in the passenger segment. At present, this is cross-subsidized by freight earnings.

The NDA government is looking at FDI, public-private-partnership besides internal resource mobilization for improving the condition of the railways.

The government recently set up a committee headed by noted economist Bibek Debroy to suggest ways to restructure the Railway Board and increase efficiency.
Noting that changes have not happened in railway sector as fast as in other sectors, Sinha said, “We are on the job.”

Seeking private participation in rail projects, he said, “Being an industry-friendly is not anti-poor. More you converse with industry, it is better for Railways.” He noted that the NDA government has changed rules to allow 100% FDI in railway projects.

“In the last rail budget, we have consciously taken the decision not to take any populist measures,” Sinha said.

Currently railways is focusing on completion of existing projects coupled with a plan to build diamond quadrilateral network of high speed rail, connecting major metros and growth centres of the country. He said passenger and freight loadings have gone up and it will increase further.

At present, railways carry approximately 36% of the total freight traffic while for US and China these are 48% and 47% respectively.