Priority is to gift 'Achhe din' to low-income group of India: Suresh Prabhu
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu's recent Rail Budget unraveled his grand plans of 'Make in India' initiatives besides enhancing safety and security of rail passengers.
In an exclusive interview with Zee Business Editor Amish Devgan, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu talks about Rail Budget, infrastructure and the vision forward.
Q: 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?
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 the present and the future requirements in mind and that is what we did. I would like to thank members of Parliament, PM and people 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 the dream of improving the infrastructure?
Prabhu: We have made an action plan of whatever we had stated in the Rail Budget. We have a detailed list for all the action plans. Few days back, we said that we will handle 1200 million tonnes of freight capacity. We have an action plan for that too. People who manage the system will implement it 101 percent. Mr. Manoj Sinhaji will monitor that.
Q: For the transformation of Railways, you have inducted Mr. Ratan Tata and Mr. Vinod Rai. What is your purpose for bringing these people?
Prabhu: The world economy is undergoing transformation and Railways need to be in tandem with the same. So we required experienced people who have been visionary entrepreneurs and successful in their field. They can manage these tasks better.
Q: So, you think it was required. Will it help?
Prabhu: They can give an expert view. In addition to this, leaders of two of our Rail Federations are also involved in this. Railways is the property of our nation, hence, we need to safeguard it. 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 private companies to run goods and passanger trains. As a Railway Minister, what's your take on this?
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. However people are facing problems for ticket reservation for the coming holiday season.
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, still it will take some time. I agree that people are facing problems in ticket reservation 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 to tackle suspicious activity. Keeping the 'Aam Janta' in mind, we are working really hard. We also want to make sure 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 private players have lots of expectations. What are your expectations?
Prabhu: Railways needs investment. In the next 5 years, we need 8.5 lakh crore. 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.
Q: The biggest fear of the private sector is corruption. What are you going to do to rectify the same?
Prabhu: We are devising a regulatory framework. Mr. Arvind Panagariya and Mr. Shankar will be a part of that. We are also taking suggestions from people to improve the system.
Q: Govt is planning to develop IRCTC along the lines of Flipkart and that is entirely your thought process.
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 for their money.
Q: It is being said that despite taking the privatisation route you have made good rapport with lots of private companies. Experts view this as a positive move.
Prabhu: We have already made it clear that Railways shall not be privatized. PM Modi said the same thing on 25 December in Varanasi too. The amount of money Railways need, can't be fulfilled with the help of Finance Ministry alone. So Railways has to find its own source.
Q: Modi government is going to complete one year in office soon. What will be your gift to this country?
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 improvement in this direction too. We ran this news on our channel as well. How soon can you fulfill your Budget promise?
Prabhu: It will take some time to lay down new tracks. We need to differentiate between the tracks. Right now, we have same track for goods, passenger, express as well as Rajdhani trains. 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?
Prabhu: Yes, we will invest whatever amount is required for this and average speed must increase within a year's time.
Q: By when do you expect an IPO of IRCTC?
Prabhu: I can't say anything now. We will work on devising the actual valuation.
Q: You have been succesful in getting FDI for two big ticket projects.What will be the contribution of Railways to the PM's 'Make in India' project?
Prabhu: Our production units and our committees are making the plan as to how should the production be increased in our country. In future modern technology should be manufactured in the country itself. A detailed roadmap is required for the same.
Q: How can the Indian corporate help in developing the Railways and what message would you give to our audience through Zee Business?
Prabhu: We want to increase our partnership with corporate India as they have the capital and experience too. Catering and many more things are in private hands.
Q: A large part of land is with the Railways. What are your views on Land Acquisition Bill?
Prabhu: Farmers are a pivotal part of India and its future. BJP is working for the development of farmers. According to National Sample survey, 44 percent of the farmers say that they do not want to pursue agriculture, which is disappointing. We need land for manufacturing and for capacity building too.
Q: Do you feel Modi government is facing the heat?
Prabhu: No, Modi government is simply presenting the facts.
Q: Atal Bihari Vajpayee has recieved the Bharat Ratna.What do you want to say?
Prabhu: I treat him like a father. I too feel honored and can't express my happiness and emotions in words.
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