March 17, 2021 4:00:54 am
“Indian Railways will never be privatised. It is a property of every Indian and will remain so,” Railway minister Piyush Goyal told the Lok Sabha Tuesday. However, he said that private investment should be encouraged for people to get better services.
“After all, roads are India’s property. But does anyone ever say that only government vehicles should run on the roads? It is good for the country if more and more vehicles ply on the roads. Similarly, shouldn’t we encourage private investment to run trains so that people get better services,” the minister asked while replying to a discussion on Demands for Grants for Railways.
Citing the example of private investment in station redevelopment, Goyal said that a Rs 230 crore plan has been formed to make the Amritsar station a world-class facility. “Such plans are there for 50 more stations. I think in such plans if private investment comes, it would be in the interest of the country and passengers,” he said.
Speaking about attracting more private investment, Goyal said that the benefits of private investment are for the people. “If we take land and bid out, private players will bring in investment along with its efficiency. Who will get those benefits, the people and the Indian industry. We will be able to create a bright future for the country when the government and the private sector work together,” he said.
The minister said the government is targeting complete electrification of Indian Railways by December 2023 and this year 5,500-km track is going to be privatised.
Speaking of the performance of Indian Railways during the pandemic, Goyal said that if all train services were not stopped on time, they would have carried the virus to the far corners of India. “When Spanish Flu arrived in Mumbai, it spread in India through Railways. But when it was time to transport stranded migrant labourers, Railways ran over 4600 Shramik Specials and transported over 60 lakh people,” he said.
Goyal said no passenger has died in any rail accident in the last two years and the Railways has been putting enormous focus on passenger safety.
“It is because Prime Minister Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent his entire childhood in a railway station that he has seen how the railways touch everyone’s lives. That is why giving special focus to Railways, he has increased the investments into Railways since 2014,” Goyal said.
The minister said while the average annual investment in Railways was around Rs 25,000 crore between 2004 and 2009, it increased to Rs 45,000 crore between 2009 and 2014. “Between 2014 and 2019, the average investment rose to Rs 1 lakh crore per year,” he said.
The minister also sought cooperation of state governments for land acquisition for faster implementation of rail projects. “If Maharashtra gives support and makes land available in Bandra Kurla for a terminal then high-speed bullet train using Japanese technology will come into India. Today 95 per cent land has been acquired in Gujarat and land has also been acquired in Daman and Diu. However, in Maharashtra we have acquired 24 per cent. If we can acquire land in Maharashtra, then we can implement the project at a faster pace,” he said.
The Lok Sabha later passed the Demands for Grants for Railways for 2021-22.
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