New Delhi: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday said there is "no question and no meaning" of privatising Railways, but public-private partnership will be encouraged and there will be corporatisation of some units.
Replying to the debate on the demands for grants of his ministry, in which 99 members participated, Goyal outlined the plans of the government to boost safety and technology and said its performance has been far better compared to that of the UPA government. He made a veiled attack on UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi over her opposition to corporatisation of the Modern Coach Factory in Rae Bareli and credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi for its turnaround.
The Minister also accused the UPA government of "inaction" following the July 2006 train blasts and said if the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in power, terrorists would have gotten a befitting reply. The House passed the demands for grants for railways (2019-20) after cut motions of the opposition were rejected by a voice vote. Amid desk thumping by MPs of the treasury benches, Goyal said demands raised by members had been compiled overnight over 74 pages and he will individually write to the members.
He said capital expenditure of Railways had increased 2.5 times during the Modi government, adding that the current government had done away with the practice of a separate railway budget as they were mostly "political budgets." Slamming the UPA government, Goyal said the work for Dedicated Freight Corridor started in 2007, but not one kilometre of track linking had been done till 2014. The NDA government completed 1900 kilometres of track linking in five years, he claimed. The Railway Minister said track kilometre grew slowly in 64 years, while in the past five years it grew by 7,000 kilometres. He also said railway stations were cleaner and train punctuality improved, as had the safety record of trains.
Goyal accused the Congress party of shedding "crocodile tears" over the corporatisation of some units, saying the Modi government was carrying forward a process that had been initiated earlier. "Sometimes it is said we are going to privatise the railways. We have spoken loudly so many times that nobody can privatise railways. There is no meaning, no question of privatising railways," he said. He said allegations about privatisation had been replied earlier and repeating them will not change the truth. "The truth is that if you want to increase the facilities of railways, spread them to all parts of the country, we need big investments," he said.
Goyal said passengers want a comfortable journey and the capacity of railways to carry goods should increase. "The government has decided that in the future it will encourage more public-private partnerships. To increase route length, to bring foreign investment, we will corporatise some units. You started it, we will complete the work you left half-finished. Why are you shedding crocodile tears that there is corporatisation? We have been elected to complete the tasks you did not do," he said.
He said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has proposed an investment of Rs 50 lakh crore in railways and related areas in the next ten-twelve years and has laid a roadmap of how the railways will move forward. Her budget speech, he said, reflected the "new thinking and new direction" in which the government will work. He said not a single coach was produced at coach factory in Rae Bareli, the constituency of Sonia Gandhi, during the rule of Congress-led government. The coach factory produced 1425 coaches in 2018-19 against its capacity of 1,000 due to Modi's directions and the target was to make it the biggest coach factory in the world which produced 5,000 coaches annually, he added.
Sonia Gandhi had earlier this month opposed corporatisation of Modern Coach Factory and said it was the first step towards privatisation. Replying to queries, he said some projects in West Bengal were pending for years as land had not been made available by the state government.