Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu presented a budget that was very different and broke away from the tradition. Nor did he announce any new trains, the most looked out part of the Railway Budget, neither did he tinker with railway fares. His budget focussed on getting the Railways back on track and making sure that a foundation has been laid to propel Railways into a growth engine of the India story.
In an interview with Media, Suresh Prabhu said that action plan for proper implementation of the budget allocations and agenda laid down in the Railway Budget 2015 is formulated. Excepts as below:
Q: Mr. Prabhu in your very first budget, you made history; you gave a practical Rail Budget, 2015 which does not have any announcement for new trains. What was the rationale behind this decision?
Suresh Prabhu: Our Prime minister has always maintained that Railways can and should become a major source of our nation’s development story. I believe the budget should be designed keeping present and future requirements in mind and that’s what we did. I would like to thank members of parliament, PM and citizens of this country for welcoming this budget.
Q: Railways lacks infrastructure and you have initiated new steps to deal with it.Do you think you can achieve those dreams of improving the infrastructure by these steps?
Suresh Prabhu: Whatever we stated in the budget, we have made an action plan for it. Today, we have all the action plans with us. For instance, responsibilty for every action etc. and we have made a detailed list for the same. Few days back, we said that we will handle 1200 million tonnes of freight capacity; we have an action plan even for that. People who manage the system will implement it 101%. Mr. Manoj Sinhaji, will monitor even that.
Q: For the transformation of railways, you have inducted Mr.Ratan Tata, Mr. Vinod Rai. What is your purpose of bringing in these people?
Suresh Prabhu: The world economy is undergoing transformation and Raliways need to be in tandem with the same. So we required experienced people who have been successful and visionary entrepreneurs manage these tasks better.
Q: So, you think it was required and will it help?
Suresh Prabhu: They can give an expert view and in addition to that leaders of two of our Rail Federations are also involved in this. Railways is the property of our nation hence, we need to safeguared it. And of course it will help as increasing accidents in railways and non-commitment to the time are the biggest problems and we need to rectify it.
Q: According to the sources, the committee under Bibek Debroy has permitted Pvt. Companies to run goods train and passanger trains. As a Railway Minister, whats your take on this?
Suresh Prabhu: Well, I can’t say anything right now as I have not seen the report yet.
Q: You have raised many issues in this budget whether its cleanliness or something else but still people are facing problems for ticket reservation in the coming holiday season.
Suresh Prabhu: Even I am concerned about the problems that Railways is facing.One is punctuality of trains, although we have made a new structure to deal with this problem but still it will take some time and yes I agree that people are facing problems in getting reserved ticket because there is a huge gap between demand and supply. We are upgrading our softwares to make it easy for people. With the help of CRPF we are keeping touts away from railway stations. We are in the process of installing CCTV cameras for any suspicious activity and specially in peak season people are facing such problems. We are working really hard in keeping ‘aam janta’ in mind so that they don’t face such problem in future.
Q: Investment in Railways is being discussed. LIC is planning to invest 1.5 lakh crore. but pvt. players have lots of expectations and I would also like to ask about your expectations.
Suresh Prabhu: Railways need investments. In the next 5 years, we need 8.5 lakhs cr..So, through PPP model, we are trying to garner the investment and will try to revamp PPP cell. Mr. Ajay Shankar was the Secretary of
Department of National Policy and Promotion. Under his aegis we are trying to work in this direction.
Q: The biggest fear of the private sector is corruption. What are going to do to rectify the same?
Suresh Prabhu: We are devising a regulatory framework and for that Arvind Panagaria and Mr. Shankar will also be a part of that. Along with that we are taking suggestions from people to improve the system.
Q: Government is planning to develop IRCTC along the lines of Flipkart and that is entirely your thought process.
Suresh Prabhu: To develop the Railways, we will have to work in a way which is manifold, because people have invested money through equities too and we must give them the correct valuation of their money.
Q: It is being said that despite taking the privatisation route you have made good rapport with lots of private companies and experts view this as a positive move..
Suresh Prabhu: We have already made it clear that Railways shall not be privatized. Mr. PM said the same thing on 25 December in Varanasi too. So, the amount of money Railways need can’t be fulfilled with the help of
finance ministry. So Railways has to find its own source.
Q: Modi govt is completing 1 year. What is your gift to this country on completion of one year to the people of this country?
Suresh Prabhu: Our biggest priority is to gift ‘achhe din’ to the low-income group of this country and we are committed to this.
Q: You had promised to increase the speed of trains and there has been some improvements in this direction too and we did run this news on our channel. How soon can you fulfill this
promise that you had made in this budget?
Suresh Prabhu: It will take some time to lay down new tracks. We need to differentiate between the tracks as right now , we have same track for goods, passenger, express as well as Rajdhani trains ..So we will try to overcome the hindrances.
Q: According to my research, this will entail a minimum investment of Rs 100 crore. Is it feasible?
Suresh Prabhu: Yes, we will invest whatever amount is required for this and average speed must increase within an years time.
Q: By when do you expect an IPO of IRCTC?
Suresh Prabhu: Can’t say now but will work on devising the actual valuation.
Q: For ‘Make In India’ , you have been succesful in getting FDI for two big ticket projects. What will be the contribution of Railways to PM’s ‘Make in India’ project?
Suresh Prabhu: Production units and our commities are making the plans as to how should the production be increased in our country. So in the times ahead the modern technology should be manufactured in the
country itself..So,a detailed roadmap is required for the same.
Q: What will you say to Corporate India how can they help in developing the Railways and what message will you give to Public?
Suresh Prabhu: We want to increase our partnership with corporate India as they have the capital and experience too. Catering etc, everything is in private hands.
Q: What are your views on land Acquisition Bill..Because a large part of land is today with the Railways?
Suresh Prabhu: Farmer is a pivotal part of India and it’s future. BJP is working for the development of farmers. According to National Sample survey, 44% of the farmers say that we do not want to pursue Agriculture, which is disappointing. So, we need land for manufacturing and for capacity building too.
Q: Do you feel Modi government is facing the heat?
Suresh Prabhu: No, Modi govt is simply presenting the facts.
Q: Today, Mr Vajpayee is receiving Bharat Ratna.What do you want to say..
Suresh Prabhu: I treat him like a father. I too feel honored and can’t express my happiness and emotions in words.