Growth comes roaring back to the Indian economy. As per the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the GDP in the first quarter of 2018-19 registered a growth of 8.2 per cent. NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar is confident of country’s GDP touching 8.5 per cent in the next quarter!
NEW DELHI: With the Indian economy registering a GDP growth of 8.2 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal, the Finance Ministry on Friday announced that it represented the potential of a ‘New India’ in an environment of global turmoil. “India’s GDP for the first quarter this year growing at 8.2 per cent in an otherwise environment of global turmoil represents the potential of New India,” Mr Arun Jaitley, Union Minister of Finance said in a tweet. “Reforms and fiscal prudence are serving us well. India is witnessing an expansion of the neo middle class,” he added.
“India’s Q1 GDP for 2018-19 grows at a phenomenal rate of 8.2%. This is reflective of the Government’s initiative to spur the Indian economy and is a result of the bold reforms undertaken by Prime Minister Shri @NarendraModi,” said Piyush Goyal, minister for railways & coal, on Twitter.
Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of NITI Aayog, said on Twitter, “Excellent news of GDP hitting a 9-quarter high at 8.2%. This is slightly higher than my own estimate of 7.8%… The growth rate will surely be higher in the coming quarters.”
As per the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the GDP at 2011-12 prices in the first quarter of 2018-19 registered a growth of 8.2 per cent, up from 7.7 per cent in Q4 of 2017-18 and 5.6 per cent from year-ago corresponding quarter. NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would grow at 8.5 per cent in the next quarter. “The automobile industry has seen a growth of 30 percent. Employment and investment would increase. In the agriculture sector, the previous quarter was 3 per cent. On an average, it was 2.6 per cent about 10-15 years ago. 5.3 per cent growth has been recorded in this quarter. Manufacturing has also seen a good growth of 13 per cent, which will increase. In the next quarter, I predict that GDP growth would be at least 8.5 percent,” he said. Expressing happiness on the GDP data for the first quarter of the year (April to June), Kumar said that the numbers were in line with expectations. “I have been saying that the growth in the first quarter will be 7.7-7.8 percent. But it came out as 8.2 percent. I am thrilled and the GDP numbers are beyond my expectations. This is a good thing for the common man. It demonstrates that our economy is on the upturn and is rising. The economic recovery began last July and I had said at that time that the second quarter will be higher and it was. Therefore this economic recovery is taking root and you will soon see this increase in growth rate being maintained and going higher in the coming quarters,” he observed.
There is a huge difference in the growth of both overall GDP of the economy and the growth of Indian Railways before and after Make in India initiative. Indian Railways (IR) is a great national asset. A single transport network that connects far flung areas of the country.
Railways critical for India’s GDP
The most significant case in point is that of the Indian Railways. Indian Railways is the fourth-largest rail network in the world, with a track length of 115,000 kilometres and around 8500 Railway stations. This government-owned-and-operated railway network carried an average of 26 million passengers a day, and over 1.2 billion tonnes of freight in 2017-18. The revenue-earning freight traffic of railways has picked up, driven by stepped-up movement in coal, fertiliser , iron ore and cement. India has a coastline of 7,500 kilometres (4,700 mi) with 13 major ports and 60 operational non-major ports, which together handle 95% of the country’s external trade by volume and 70% by value (most of the remainder handled by air). Nhava Sheva, Mumbai is the largest public port, while Mundra is the largest private sea port. The airport infrastructure of India includes 125 airports of which 66 airports are licensed to handle both passengers and cargo.
While the Indian Railways have made a recovery with the two dedicated freight corridors, various new railway lines becoming operational, and witnessing steady growth in passenger and freight traffic, in absolute terms, transport investment needs to rise seven-fold from the 11th Plan to the 15th Plan (2027-32), or from 2.9% of GDP right now to 3.8% in another few years and then be sustained at that level. Apart from the fact that a one percentage point step up is a big one, much of the investment will have to come from the public sector—in the original simulations, the private share was expected to rise to around 25-30% over a decade but the sad state of private infrastructure firm balance sheets shows this was way too optimistic. More than the money which is a big challenge, it is clear the present Railway Board-led governance structure cannot pull off this transformation. Apart from the criticality of building the railway network for GDP growth, India’s Paris goals depend upon increasing the railways’ share in local transport from 36% right now to 45% by 2030—the six freight corridors will lower India’s cumulative railway emissions from 1.26 billion tonnes between 2016-2046 to 0.29 billion tonnes, and to 0.09 billion in a low-carbon scenario. India can’t afford to slip up on widening its tracks.
Indian Railways top among other ministries in budgetary spending
Of the top ten ministries in terms of spending capacity, six including Railways, Rural Development, Agriculture, Roads and Highways registered handsome increases in expenditure in the first quarter of FY19, reflecting the Narendra Modi government’s priority areas ahead of the general elections next year as also its continuing stress on public expenditure to prop up economic growth. On a year-on-year basis, the budgetary spending increase in the April-June 2018 quarter was the sharpest for the railways (133%). Rail Minister Piyush Goyal realized that Railways’ finances need to be shored up. Thus, to double up the national transporter’s revenue, he decided to feed the hen that lays the golden egg: freight capacity, which accounts for 65% of the revenues.
Opening up phases of the 3,300-km dedicated freight corridors project – mega project, post India’s independence
Indian Railways expects to complete the construction of the 3300-km dedicated freight corridors project by year-end. So, 432 km of the 1,500 km western freight corridor and 343 km of the 1,800 km eastern freight corridor will be made operational by year-end. This is also deemed to be India’s first mega railway project since independence. It is also likely that Indian Railways to announce ₹56,000-crore Kharagpur-Vijayawada “East Coast Rail Freight Corridor”, which is envisaged to be of 1,114 km in length and is part of the Golden Quadrilateral project of the Indian Railways.
Ongoing Bullet Train project
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is eagerly awaited. The first of its kind, though the project’s groundwork began in 2017, it has faced protests over land acquisition from farmers receiving support from local political actors in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The 534km and Rs1 lakh cr project built with an 80% loan from Japan will run at an average speed of 200-250kmph. This will be a game-changer for inter-city connectivity.
Now, as the high-octane 2019 Lok Sabha elections loom large, the Centre is ready to tap the pulse of the people by promising to deliver several high-profile projects in the Railways sector. These are reportedly to the tune of Rs.s50,000 crore.
Revamping of Railway Stations
Under its renovation and upgradation plan, the Railways are successful in installing state of the art amenities, which include elevators, a modern passenger announcement system, posh waiting rooms with airport-like entry and exit systems, shopping complexes, and installing about 5 lakh CCTV systems on all major stations. What’s more, after getting the cold shoulder from private investors, Railways have decided to refurbish these stations using their own engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) model. Media reports suggest that this could probably cost the country’s premier transport system ~Rs3,000-4,000 crore.
Engineless, semi-high speed “Train 18” launches next month
One of the precious jewel in the crown of Indian Railways, the Shatabdi Express, is all set to retire. It will be replaced by a newer much-awaited semi-high speed “Train 18” in September. Built under PM Modi’s pet initiative, “Make in India,” these trains are capable to run at a speed of 160km/hr. Apart from features like sealed gangways, automatic doors, on-board Wi-Fi and infotainment systems among other things, the trains will have an aluminum body, making them more aesthetic, lightweight, energy efficient, and durable.
6000 Railway Stations to be WiFi-enabled in next 6 months
Around 6,000 railway stations will be WiFi-enabled in the next six-eight months, so as to leverage digital technology, the basic ingredient is to ensure access to technology in the remotest part of the country. The Indian Railways is working on a programme to ensure the last mile connectivity wherever Optical fibre infrastructure s not available in its network. Railways is hopeful that in the next six-to-eight months, all railway stations, other than the halt stations, about 6,000 stations will be WiFi-enabled.
Introduction of Dwarf Containers with 67% more volume capacity; could be a game-changer in capturing high-end traffic
Dwarf Containers that has 67% more volume capacity, could be a game changer in capturing high end traffic. The latest of Indian Railways’ initiatives that is expected to grow into a giant, capturing high-end traffic it lost to the road sector over the years when, in the 1980s, end-to-end running of block rakes was introduced. While this step had reduced wagon turnaround significantly, it had also closed avenues for booking of individual wagons. The ‘dwarf’ provides 67% increase in volume when double-stacked and can carry a weight of 71 tonnes, against 40 tonnes by an ISO container. This maximises the available envelope of moving dimensions under the catenary as well as the permissible axle load.