In a unique initiative, Indian Railways has launched a new portal “Rail Sahyog” to invite private firms to contribute CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds for building better infrastructure on the national transporter’s network. Launched by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, the new website – railsahyog.in – invites companies to invest for building passenger amenities. So far, five initiatives/projects have been identified for CSR purposes by Indian Railways. These are; building toilets in circulating areas of stations for better hygiene, plastic bottle crushing machines at stations to ensure environmental sustainability, dustbins at stations for cleanliness, stainless steel benches at stations and waiting halls for senor citizens and divyangjan, providing free WiFi at stations for educational rural area development purposes. The free WiFi facility should ideally also have provision for a kiosk that can provide e-services etc.
According to the Rail Sahyog website, Indian Railways is hoping to upgrade its technology, infrastructure and hygiene standards in line with PM Modi’s ‘New India by 2022’ vision. According to the national transporter, with this new collaboration corporates will be able to effectively utilise their CSR funds with “certainty of impact for every rupee spent”. Apart from the above mentioned projects, the CSR partners can also choose to fund or provide any other amenity, facility or service at railway stations or the surrounding areas as per the CSR guidelines of the Railway Board.
Not only private firms, but also PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings) and institutions can join hands with Indian Railways for development and upgradation of infrastructure. Incidentally, a change in the company law in 2014 mandated that businesses that have annual revenues of over Rs 10 billion should give 2% of their net profit for charity. In 2016, the national transporter put in place a framework to encourage CSR participation by these entities in Indian Railways projects.