Only Lazy Railmen Think That Road Sector Is A Competitor

Updated: Feb 27 2003, 05:30am hrs
Should Nitish Kumar worry about competition from the road sector Certainly, if he listened to any expert worrying about the Indian Railways. Since the network is described as the most extensively studied organisation on the planet that should be some weight in good advice. Even Rail Board officials ditto this. But privately. The argument annoys the mantriji. He thinks advise like this is stupid and lazy.

Only lazy people talk like that! Only those who dont want to work come out with these arguments, Kumar tells FE. I ask my officers Wheres your creativity Why shouldnt the country have good roads Why shouldnt we have integrated transport policies I have held both railways and surface transport at the same time. I should know.

Instead of losing sleep over the so called dangers awaiting the Railways once there is a first class road network, the Samata politician believes that new highways will create more market for the railway system. We will gain from any boost in economic activity, he assures.

So, what about the Rakesh Mohan committee report that Kumar had commissioned The argument that the Railways is bleeding itself dry against growing competition The prescription that if the Rail Board survives, the Railways wont Does the Rakesh Mohan report stand buried in some dusty almirahs of Rail Bhavan Well, Kumar is too seasoned a political animal to confirm that directly. But he is an honourable man. He recounts how at a town hall meeting in rail staff college (Baroda) Rakesh Mohan had stood up to tell (irate) railwaymen that his team of experts had only proposed a diagnosis. Which medicine it needed was the Railways call! So, to hell with fears of going bust. No winding up of the Rail Board. No separation of policy, regulation and implementation. No staff cuts. In a word, nothing to fear for any entrenched player. As Kumar explains helpfully, railway staff are citizens too.

While still on almirahs and dusty reports, Kumar reminds us that not just Rail Bhavan, every ministry has almirahs! He is unapologetic about the populism that rail ministers unleash every year. The Railways are the lifeline of the nation, how can we not have social objectives The trick is to keep economic rationale in mind, which I am doing. I will initiate a new system of accounting on costing. I want to see whether the passenger system is really subsidised. We will conform with CAGs audit guidelines, yet present a true picture of the costs.

(Nitish Kumar spoke to this reporter on Doordarshan)