Union Minister Piyush Goyal
Union Minister Piyush Goyal
File Photo

Saying that railways is the "property of the nation and the people" railways minister on Piyush Goyal on Tuesday reiterated that the central government is not planning to privatise the Indian Railways.

"I assure you that the Indian Railways is the property of the nation and the people. No one can touch it, it will never be privatised. Don't get caught in the opposition's propaganda. This is your property, it will remain yours,” Goyal said during a public meeting in West Bengal's Kharagpur.

Last year, the Indian Railways allowed private companies to operate certain stations in a public-private partnership model. The move, steered by the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC), looks forward to significantly modernise parts of a decades-old system.

However, the government's move landed itself in trouble, when rumours spread that the Centre might be planning to sell off the governmental entity. These speculations received a boost in October when the government decided to set up a committee to draft a blueprint for transferring the operations of 150 trains and 50 railway stations to private firms.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, at a public meeting in Kerala last month, said that the government's "intent" to privatise the Indian Railways was a "threat to the millions of poor people who travel in trains". Defending the allegation, Goyal had pointed out in Parliament that there was a difference between "privatisation" and "monetisation". "When you privatise, you sell off the assets permanently and it no more remains a part of the government ownership. In the railways, the plan is to monetise in terms of how it will generate resources, further investment and growth. The infrastructure of Indian Railways will never be privatised," Goyal said.

The private investment in railways would improve railway services across the nation. According to the central government, passenger train operations, taken up through the PPP model, aims to bring a total investment of about ₹30,000 crore and is expected to make the railways a key economic driver in the strategy of investment-led growth.

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