Setting all speculation to rest, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday ruled out the possibility of privatising Indian Railways. Addressing a gathering after launching a Rs 213-crore expansion project at Varanasi-based Diesel Locomotive Works, Modi said the railways was the backbone of India’s economic development and there was no question of privatising it.
“There are some who are spreading rumours that the railways would be privatised. That is totally wrong. This is not our thought or intention. I will not allow this as I love the railways the most as I am attached to it since my birth,” he said. “What we want to do is that instead of putting the common man’s money into the everyday running of the railways, put cash-rich investor’s money and get soft loans from international agencies for greater development of the railways,” he said, adding that the railways’ huge land parcels at almost every station can be used by investors.
Stating that his government wanted to set up railway universities in all four parts of India in order to boost the capabilities of the railways, the PM emphasised on making the railways the backbone of India’s economic development. “I will give you an example of how development can take place with help from the railways. The railways has electricity, infrastructure and a widespread network. Even stations in small villages, where trains arrive only once in a day have these facilities. All through the day the stations lie vacant. Can’t we build a few rooms at the station and utilise power and infrastructure facilities that the railways have in imparting skill development to the youth of the area?” he asked, adding that he wants to show more development in the railways than what has happened in the last 60 years.
“There are thousand of such stations around the country. I have asked people to identify these villages so that we can establish two skill development centres at every such railway station and utilise railway resources without investing extra money,” Modi said, while dedicating to the nation a modern, air-conditioned passenger train engine and inaugurating a project for the expansion of the diesel locomotive workshop.
Asserting that he would not want the railways to be merely a means of transport, Modi said he wants to make it the engine of growth in the country.
“We don’t see the railways only as a means to travel. We see it as the backbone of India’s economic development. We have to take the railways ahead and through the railways we have to take the nation ahead,” he said, adding that since becoming PM in May, he ended up talking mostly about railways.
Earlier, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said Modi had identified the railways as a priority sector and that very soon a blueprint of action plan for the years ahead would be issued.