VIP Segments, Poll-bound States Strike Gold
NEW DELHI: Public-private partnership (PPP) was the buzzword when the Modi Government’s first formal “statement of intent” arrived at the platform on Tuesday, promising to open one of India’s largest state-owned enterprises, the railways, to large-scale private participation.
The train of thought was pretty clear. Railways Minister Sadananda Gowda spoke of doing to railway stations what the PPP model had done to the airports in Delhi and Mumbai -- massive overhaul and modernisation.
The old idea of outsourcing non-essential allied services, like catering and housekeeping, to private players also got renewed emphasis in Gowda’s rather crisp Budget presentation in Parliament.
The showstopper was of course the magic phrase “bullet trains”. And “diamond quadrilateral”, an application in railways of an idea the last NDA regime under Atal Behari Vajpayee had envisaged for highway networks.
Beyond high-speed connectivity and a stated openness to foreign and domestic private participation, it was mostly a business-like Budget that seeks to expedite and finish existing projects, no less than 674 ones commissioned in the last 30 years.
The political dig at Congress, in power most of those years, was obvious. The Railway Minister ticked off those who “focused only on commissioning but never on completion”.
And Gowda took a leaf from Modi’s book: “Bitter medicine taken now becomes nectar later,” he said.
The bitter pill, according to the minister, was required for alternative resource mobilisation to strike a balance between welfare and sustainable enterprise.
But it was not all economics: Gowda went in a big way on poll-bound Maharashtra and Harayana. While Karanataka and his own Bangalore constituency got five new trains, his former seat Mangalore too got new trains.
Mumbai too was not left out -- five new trains, plus speedier ones on Mumbai-Goa and Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridors. And the first bullet train could zoom between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Nagpur, Road Minister Nitin Gadkari’s constituency and Sangh headquarters, too got its share of three new trains. As for Uttar Pradesh, the PM’s Varanasi constituency got three new trains and a route extension.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s Lucknow also got three new trains. And in Haryana, Gowda gave new trains to Hissar, Palwat and Jind.
BJP leaders and ministers had little to crib as Rajiv Pratap Rudy’s Chhapra, Railways MoS Manoj Sinha’s Ghazipur, Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur, MoS Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s Bathinda, Bandaru Dattatreya’s Secundrabad, MoS Radhamohan Singh’s Motihari, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s Indore, and veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi’s Kanpur got new trains.