NEW DELHI(PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday ruled out privatisation of Railways while asking trade unions to stop worrying about foreign investments coming in the sector, saying these will be used for greater development of the national transporter.
“There is a misunderstanding that Railways is being privatised. However, I want to make it clear that we are not privatising Railways. We cannot go in this direction. You don’t have to worry. It is neither our wish nor thinking,” he said. The Prime Minister was obviously seeking to dispel apprehensions among railway unions over the issue. The unions had even planned to hold protest against the proposal to invite FDI in railways.
“I want to ask the union leaders how is it worrying if funds come in pounds or dollars,” he said and asked railwaymen whether they welcome it or not and whether it should be done or not. Asserting that he would not want Railways to be merely a means of transport, he said he wants to make it the engine of growth in the country.
“I want to show more development in Railways than what has happened in the last 60 years,” Modi said while dedicating to the nation a modern, air-conditioned passenger train engine and inaugurating a project for expansion of the Diesel Locomotive Workshop here. He said instead of utilising money meant for poor to fund Railways to keep it alive, the government wants to pool resources from the rich and soft loans from abroad to finance the national transporter.
The Prime Minister said the Railways is a “priority” sector for him and he seeks to use it as a backbone for the country’s development. “We don’t see railways only as a means to travel. We see it as the backbone of India’s development,” he said. “I am attached with railway from my birth. My life has been saved by railways. No one can love railways more than I do,” he said.
Spelling out his vision for the public transporter, Modi proposed to set up four railway universities in the four corners of the coutry to produce efficient manpower, modernise its infrastructure and make it service oriented. “I want to build rail universitiers and if I get help from Japan and China, get technology support and expertise, should I take it or not. We want to do this,” he underscored. Railways can change the face of the country if it is modernised and made service oriented, thus generating huge employment opportunities, he said.
Batting for better passenger amenities in stations, Modi said he has devoted his MPLAD fund for setting up more chairs in Varanasi station for the benefit of passengers especially the senior citizens. “I have also asked all MPs to use their MPLAD fund for setting up more chairs at stations in their constituencies,” he said.
He also said that he has asked railways officials to identify idle stations which have power facilities so that their infrastructure could be put to good use for delivering skill development programmes. Such stations could have an additional two rooms where children from villages can take coaching on skill development. In this way, railway, along with post offices could bring about a change in the life of rural India, he said.