Wants to bring in private capital to improve the functioning of railways
New Delhi : Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has denied privatising Indian Railways, saying it is wrong information spread by vested interests who do not want any change. He further said the concept of privatisation gives confusing signals and envisages the possibilities of ownership transfer of an enterprise to a different entity or management which was not possible in railways.
“Railways will continue to be owned by government of India, managed by government of India. We want change not for the change in ownership. We do not want change for somebody to run the precious assets of railways. We want to bring in private capital or technology to improve the functioning of railways so that railways become more valuable,” Prabhu said.
Prabhu’s remarks come in the backdrop of raging debate on the privatisation of railways with the government-appointed committee headed by economist Bibek Debroy recommending corporatisation of the loss-making public transporter and suggesting that the ministry of railways be only responsible for policymaking and private players should be allowed to run passengers and freight operations.
According to the latest CAG report on Railways, the Indian Railways was unable to meet its operational cost of passenger and other coach services and there was a loss of Rs.23,643 cr in the same during 2011-12. Asked about the reasons for opposing privatisation, he said, “Unfortunately this type of nomenclature is an ideological debate. This is unnecessary and unintended confrontation. What is meant by us is that we want to improve quality of service of railways.”
“So whatever brings better quality of service, better technology, better profitability has to be done with whatever means possible. If we can do it ourselves in-house then we should do it. If we realise that we cannot do it in-house then we must get it outside capital, outside technology and outside agency”, but not with the transfer of ownership. Privatisation, he said, “is a bogey being raised by those who do not want change” even if it is for improving performance and facilities.
Citing the example of Japan launching a 650 km per hour speed train, Prabhu said, “Where are we? If we do not have the technology should we remain behind? We should not look outside like ostrich. This is not possible. Therefore, we must look as to who can provide technology will be a partner. We do not have money so the one who can provide money, can be our partner. Therefore, getting private sector participation in railways for better technology or for money does not amount to privatisation.”
Asked about the key challenges railways was facing, Prabhu said, “Challenges are many. Mindset itself is a challenge. The biggest challenge is the mindset. One is our internal mindset and the second is the people who use railway services.”