Indian Railways can become the growth engine of the country, if utilized properly it can also help propel the Modi’s vision of make in India and India replacing China as the world’s factory. The government’s focus on reforming and developing the Indian Railways will help the national behemoth emerge as the next growth engine for India’s economy for the decades to come.
Government of India has been working day and night to ensure India is projected in the right light. Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his various ministers is making concerted efforts to attract foreign capital and technology to fund India’s infrastructure ambitions. Initiatives such as Make in India, the Smart Cities Mission, Digital India and Skill India have captured significant global attention. For all of this to succeed a renewed attention to Indian Railways is needed, how Indian Railways can actively contribute to national development can be learned by the examples of China and Japan where both countries have used their Indian Railways to transform their countries into Economic behemoth.
Indian Railways has been the victim of gross under investment and populist policies by successive governments, almost every single Railway minister has invested very less in capacity expansion of the Indian Railways, most are only interested in introducing new trains in & around their constituencies to appease the electorate. Over the past one decade, the government has spent only 0.3-0.5 per cent of its GDP as capital investments in the Indian Railways, while the roads have been getting the lion’s share of the allocations. This step motherly treatment of Indian Railways must end if we are to transform this giant behemoth into a National asset and not let it become another Air India.
Under investment is not the only problem of the Indian Rail, corruption, inefficiency and red-tapism are also plaguing the Indian Railways. According to a report by leading brokerage firm JM Financial titled ‘Indian Railways turning the corner’
During the last 3 decades, out of the 676 projects worth Rs 1,57,800 crore sanctioned, only 317 projects have been completed as of 2014. The remaining 359 projects, which currently require a investment of Rs 1,82,000 , are delayed due to various reasons such as land acquisition, cost overruns, insufficient funds, etc., it said.
Out of the 99 new lines sanctioned in the past decade worth Rs 60,000 crore, only one project is complete as of 2014, almost every single project of the Indian Railways has suffered from time or cost overruns. While the Road sector was in a far better shape (comparatively speaking) Indian Railways have not gotten their due share, this can be explained by a comparing the network expansion of Roads and Indian Railways. In the past 2 and a half decade, the Indian Railways has added a meagre 7 per cent to its network in terms of track length to 114,907 km, while the roads have more than doubled during the same period.
Over the decades, hundreds of expert committees have made suggestions and recommendations to improve the working of the Indian Rail, though most reports are gathering dust and getting eaten by termite Now, two main aspects have changed which finally offers a way out – 1st is the new found political will of the government which is determined to transform the Indian Railways and second is a steady pipeline of funds to help meet ambitions capital expenditure targets of the Rail. Both are vital, if Indian Railways ever wants to transform itself.
The new government’s renewed focus on Indian Railways is a step in the right direction. Indian Railways must focus on completing the existing projects before announcing new ones and here to the new Rail minister has set a precedent by announcing no new trains in his 1st rail budget .Progress on many projects like the dedicated freight corridors and the doubling of many crucial lines is not at all satisfactory.
Though, many initiatives of the honorable Rail minister like; getting 1.5 lakh crore investment from LIC (spread over a period of 5 years),forming SPVs(Special Purpose Vehicles) with various state governments for development of Rail infrastructure in the respective states, speed up campaign where the average speed of various trains is being increased, redevelopment of 400 rail stations through PPP(Public private partnership) mode, a ruthless campaign to weed out corruption in the rail ministry are appreciated a lot more is needed to be done to truly transform the Indian Railways to truly transform it into a engine of economic growth.
Cover Image Courtesy: iamwire.in