The Health of the Indian Railways in not in good shape. The Railways is facing a huge shortfall of revenue. It lacks resources. Over the years, different Railways ministers have announced several projects across India. Most of these projects are at various stages of implementation. Some are yet to take off.
Over the years states have been demanding for better Railway network, infrastructure and connectivity. Unless the states share the cost of various Railway projects, the Centre won’t be able to implement them.
According to the information available with me many state governments are opposing cost sharing on the grounds that they don’t have enough money to bear the cost. In my home state of Karnataka, when I was Minister of State for Railways at the Centre, I had persuaded the state government to share the cost.
The state had shared 50 percent of the cost of laying new tracks and gauge conversion etc. A few other state governments also shared the cost in their respective states.
The new Railways minister Suresh Prabhu has a tough job. He is a decent man with a vision. We expect him to do something big. But, how will he be able to raise the money to complete the ongoing and pending projects?
We need at least two lakh crore rupees to complete these projects. The Railways is facing a huge resource crunch. Unless, he raises money, no promise can be kept. Raising money is not an easy job under present circumstances.
Some argue that the Railways should raise money from the open market. I have a hunch that Suresh Prabhu is keen on external borrowing. But, we should be careful before going to private entities for money. After all Railways is India’s lifeline and we can’t compromise its security and independence for money. Privatization or partial privatization is not a good idea. Before deciding on such things, all stakeholders should be taken into confidence. We in the opposition must also be contacted and convinced.
Suresh Prabhu is a new minister and we will wait for some more time before saying something about his performance. The Railways budget for 2015-16 will decide that. Under UPA-1 and UPA-2 rule, the Railways has done a good job. We initiated and completed several projects.
I don’t agree with the allegations that we did nothing. We may have failed in marketing our good work. The Modi government is good only at marketing. There is no real action on the ground.Railways is India’s pride. It is our national asset. Let’s develop it into an international brand with international standards. However, we must not forget the poor and ordinary people who depend on the Railways. Between money and social responsibility, the government must choose social responsibility.