NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday ruled out privatisation of the Railways and said private investment would be used to modernise the transport system and make it service-oriented, so that it would become the nation’s growth engine.
Speaking after laying the foundation stone for expansion of the Diesel Locomotive Works factory in his constituency, Varanasi, Modi tried to allay fears of railway employees and unions on privatisation.
He asserted that his aim was to ensure that the modernisation and growth of Railways is facilitated through private investment, and not through public funds which are the property of the poor, and should be used to fulfill their basic needs, including health and education.
“There is a misunderstanding that the Railways is being privatised. However, I want to make it clear that we are not privatising the Railways. We cannot go in this direction. You don’t have to worry. It is neither our wish nor thinking,” he said, adding that the Railways is not just a means of travel but the backbone of the country’s development.
There were reports earlier that the NDA government wants to privatise the cash-strapped state-run public transport system though the move was opposed by unions.
Recalling his association with the Railways, Modi said: “I have an association with the Railways that is older than what most of the railway employees may claim to have. I am attached with the Railways from my birth. My life has been saved by the Railways. No one can love Railways more than I do,” in an apparent reference to his days when he used to sell tea near railway stations during his childhood.
The Prime Minister also talked about using the huge infrastructure available with the Railways for transforming the country’s economy. Besides, he touched upon setting up railway universities to train the youth. “We want to set up railway universities in all four parts of India to ensure proper and well-trained human resource for the Railways,” he said urging the employees to ensure that the best service in the country is provided by the Railways.
The Prime Minister, who flagged off a new high horsepower diesel locomotive, described it as an example of India’s indigenous capabilities, and an illustration of his vision for Make in India. He recalled former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s slogan of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and said it had inspired farmers to make India self-reliant in food production. He expressed hope that “Make in India” would inspire the current generation to become self-reliant for all of its needs. Modi also said the postal and railway networks could be leveraged to become drivers of rural development.
Speaking from a make-shift stage on the banks of the Ganga, Modi also nominated nine more individuals/institutions for taking forward the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu along with senior railway board officials were present on the occasion.