Rejecting the opposition's allegation that the government is working to privatise the national transporter, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal Friday asserted there is "no question" of privatisation, but said the ministry will invite investments for new technology, lines and projects in national interest.
Replying in the Lok Sabha to the discussion on Demands for Grants of the railways, Goyal reeled out figures to claim that the Narendra Modi government has performed much better in boosting both infrastructure and safety parameters of the national transporter as compared to the UPA era.
During his hour-long speech there were frequent protests by Congress members, as their leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury accused him of misleading the House and he was backed by his party colleagues.
Goyal also defended the decision to discontinue tabling of a separate railway budget in Parliament, calling them "political budgets" which were used to sell dreams of new trains and railway lines to people for winning elections.
With several opposition leaders accusing the government of ushering in privatisation of the railways, Goyal noted that he had time and again rejected the claims and would reiterate again that there was no question of privatisation.
"There is no question of privatisation of the railways. The railways cannot be privatised. However, if we have to increase the facilities in railways then obviously we need investments for it. We have taken a decision to encourage public private partnerships and we will also corporatise some units.
"We should invite investment in national interest if someone is ready to get new technology, new stations, projects and lines," the minister told the House.
Goyal said that the Modi government had inherited a dilapidated railways, but had managed to turn it around in the past five years by laying new tracks, improving security and facilities for passengers.
He said track kilometre grew by 39,000 km in 64 years, while in the past five years it grew by 7,000 km. Similarly, he said the railways increased its running kilometre by 12,000 km between 1950-2014, while from 2014-2019, it grew by 5,000 running kilometre.
"The work for Dedicated Freight Corridor started in 2007. From 2007 to 2014, they had not even managed one kilometre of track linking. We took on this work and in just five years, we have completed 1900 km of track linking," said Goyal.
He further claimed that during the Congress rule, not one coach was manufactured in Rae Bareli's Modern Coach Factory since 2007-2008 till 2014 and the first coach was made in August 2014 shortly after the BJP came to power.
"We want the MCF to increase its manufacturing capacity to 5000 and the trains coming out of there go to the entire world. We want it to be the largest factory in the world," he said.
Goyal said that between 2004 and 2009, around 206 accidents took place every year, while the number was 153 between 2009 and 2011. He said that during the BJP's tenure, it reduced to around 100 every year.
The minister also highlighted how the government had installed around 2,10,000 bio-toilets in trains so far.
Hitting out at successive state governments in West Bengal, Goyal said that several projects had been held up because the state was unable to provide land to railways.
"The oldest project in West Bengal is running from 1974-75. The projects dont get completed because the government doesn't give us land. If they give us land, work will immediately start," he said, adding that similar problems were also faced in Kerala.
Goyal's reference to the alleged inaction of the UPA government to Mumbai train blasts, which had taken place on July 11, 2006, drew loud protests from the Congress, with its members shouting "shame on you".
He asserted that such terrorists would have been given a befitting reply had Modi been in power.
Goyal also credited the prime minister for his focus on the railways and said the growth the sector had seen was largely because of his vision.
"A tea vendor selling tea in front of trains during his childhood saw this country and understood the significance of the railways," said Goyal.