Prime Minister Narendra Modi today ruled out privatisation of Railways and said that people must not be wary of foreign and private capital being utilised for improving infrastructure of the national transporter which, in turn, will help boost the country’s economy.
On a visit to his constituency here, Modi recalled his childhood days when he had sold tea near a railway station, saying, “I have an association with Railways that is older than what most of Railway employees can claim to have.
“There is a misunderstanding that Railways is being privatised. However, I want to make it clear that we are not privatising Railways. We cannot go in this direction. You don’t have to worry. It is neither our wish nor thinking,” he said, asking the unions not to pay heed to “rumours” in this regard.
The Prime Minister made it clear that he planned to utilise the enormous capital available with business establishments within the country as well as abroad for improving the infrastructure.
“We need to understand and appreciate the potential of the Railways’ huge infrastructure which, if utilised properly, can transform the country’s economy,” he said.
He was speaking at the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), on the outskirts of the city, where he inaugurated a project for expansion of the workshop and also dedicated to the nation a 4500 horse-power air-conditioned passenger train engine.
“We can take the example of a village where there is a railway station through which very few trains pass. Now the existence of the station would naturally result in good electricity supply.
“If we construct a few rooms in the vicinity, we can use these for setting up skill development centres which can work wonders for the unemployed youths in the village and nearby areas,” Modi said.
Modi said Railways can be made an attractive career option for many talented young people.
“For that we would need to bring in technological upgradation and better human resource management. It is for this purpose that we have decided to set up four Railway universities across the country,” he said.
“At these universities, young men who have an interest in Railways and its operations can get best-possible training before they get a job,” Modi added.
The Prime Minister, who also inaugurated a project for expansion of the DLW workshop, said, “This project should be seen as an important part of my government’s Make in India campaign.
“I feel proud to have dedicated to the nation the modern rail engine which, I am told, has 96 per cent of its components indigenously built.
“I have got an assurance from officials here that efforts will be made so that even the remaining four per cent are developed here.
“We have come a long way since the days when we had to import foodgrains from other countries.”
He said that the country has come a long way and the dream of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, of self-sufficiency in food, has been realised.
“We must now dream of fulfilling all our needs on our own strength and leave behind the current times wherein we are importing all sorts of things from defence equipment to teargas shells,” Modi added.
The Prime Minister, however, allayed fears over introducing private and foreign investment for improving railway infrastructure and said, “why must we increase the burden on common man’s pocket for improving services, upgrading technology and expanding infrastructure.
“Why not utilise the vast funds that is available with business groups be it here or outside the country”.
“Please have no fear. If a foreign company contributes in improving the condition of our railway stations and in the bargain erects a skyscraper in the vicinity, the country will be the ultimate gainer.
“We need to look at novel ways to improve Railways. That is why I have decided to use the funds at my disposal under the MPLAD scheme for the laying down more benches at the stations in Varanasi,” Modi added.
Speaking from a make-shift stage on the banks of the Ganga, Modi nominated nine more individuals/institutions for taking forward the “Swachch Bharat Abhiyan”.
These included former cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, stand-up comedian Kapil Sharma, danseuse Sonal Mansingh, Eenadu Group of Publications and its head Ramoji Rao, Today Group led by Aroon Purie and Magsaysay Award winner Kiran Bedi.
Others named by Modi were Nagaland Governor Padmanabha Acharya, the famous “dabbawallah” tiffin service providers of Mumbai and the Institute for Chartered Accountants in India.
The Prime Minister, thereafter laid the foundation stone for an “Inter University Centre for Teachers’ Education” in the BHU campus where he also launched “Madan Mohan Malaviya National Mission on Teachers and Training” — a Rs 900 crore HRD Ministry initiative.
He inaugurated Campus Connect — a wi-fi facility for the sprawling varsity campus and Sanskriti — a five-day cultural festival.
Favouring introduction of a five-year degree course for those interested in taking up teaching as a profession, Modi said, “They can start getting relevant education after Class XII just like their counterparts in the field of law do.
“The richest and the poorest are alike in their desire for good education for their children. The 21st century has been called the century of knowledge in which the world is looking at India with huge expectations. We need to proclaim that we are ready,” he said.
“We must transform our education policy in a way which enables us to export millions of top-class teachers to countries across the world”, the Prime Minister said to a round of applause.
At the function which was part of “Good Governance Day” celebrations, Modi denounced the practice of female foeticide prevailing in the country, saying “there is no bigger sin” than this and sought the help of people in the field of art and culture in “shaking” the society so stop the menace.
“In a country where Rani Laxmi Bai is hailed, there is the practice of female foeticide. There is no bigger sin,” he said.
In the presence of Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma, the PM gave away prizes to winners of “Banaras Kashth Khilona Pratiyogita”, an artisans’ contest organized as part of Yuktia — a project carried out with the help of IIT Kanpur and industrial institutions to help crafts people upgrade their production and marketing skills.
Later, the PM visited the Diesel Locomotive Works premises where he inaugurated a project for expansion of the rail engine factory and called it an important step in “Make in India” campaign.
Dedicating to the nation a 4500-HP engine, equipped with anti-fog glass, air-conditioner and other modern features, Modi said, “It has been built with 96 per cent indigenous components. I want the remaining four per cent to be made in the country as well.
“We have left behind the days when we had to import foodgrains. We must now move ahead of the current scenario wherein big defence products as well as tear gas shells are being purchased from other countries,” he said, adding, “Strengthening the ailways would go a long way in achieving this.”
He highlighted the national transporter’s role in supporting the country’s economy and its potential in assisting further growth in the presence of Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
Allaying fears over FDI and investment by private players within the country, he said this way the railways’ improvement would not be dependent on increased tax rates which “put a strain on the common man’s pocket”.
He also said that his government was looking forward to establishing four railway universities which would go a long way in bringing about technological upgradation and better human resource management in the sector.
This was the second visit of Modi to his Lok Sabha constituency after becoming the Prime Minister. The former Gujarat Chief Minister had won this seat by a huge margin of 3.7 lakh votes. He retained the Varanasi seat while vacating Vadodara in his home state where he had won with a record margin of 5.7 lakh votes.
Before boarding the aircraft to return to New Delhi, the Prime Minister addressed via video-conferencing a meeting in Ahmedabad from the DLW campus here.
Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, senior officials from Gujarat and a large number of people — mostly women — listened in rapt attention to Modi, who spoke in Gujarati on developmental issues.
Tight security arrangements were in place across the city in view of the PM’s visit.
A number of students were rounded up from the BHU campus as they wanted to submit a memorandum to Modi, despite having no appointment, with the demand for restoring students’ union at the varsity.
Several protestors were also held near the DLW campus where they shouted slogans opposing “any attempt to privatise Railways”.
The Prime Minister, who was scheduled to reach the Babatpur airport here at 1040 hours, could only arrive by noon due to bad weather in Delhi which caused his plane to take off later than scheduled.
However, clear sky in Varanasi — which had witnessed foggy weather for the past few days — enabled the PM to save time by taking the aerial route to reach BHU from the airport instead of travelling by road as had been planned earlier.