“We are committed to making Indian Railways better”
Railway Ministry perhaps has the most challenging task at hand in the government – of efficiently running a mammoth system and creating additional capacity, with little financial muscle. How the Ministry is transforming the Indian Railways, explains Manoj Sinha, Minister of State for Railways, in an interview to Sanjay K Bissoyi. Excerpts:
What is your first thought on financial health and operational revamp of Indian Railways?
Passengers’ traffic has increased 16 times in Indian Railways, while railway network’s growth has increased 2.25 times ever since independence. And our challenge is to fill the gap as soon as possible. We are committed to making the Indian Railways better.
What can we expect from upcoming rail budget? Rise in fair or comfort to the passengers?
We have made a five-year road map for Indian Railways, and continuity of it will be visible in the upcoming railway budget. Firstly, we want to decongest Indian Railways. So, we will give prominence to doubling and tripling of tracks. Electrification of most of railway lines is another main objective. Third one is to construct satellite stations on large scale all over India. Bio-toilets in every train would be constructed mandatorily in order to practice “Swachh Bharat” campaign, which is also one of our focused plan.
What are the Railways’ main challenges on the financial front?
Indian Railways plays a big role in India economy. We expect a little bit more than the profit, we got in 2014-15 financial year. Seventh Pay Commission is also a big challenge for us, as we have to expend 30 to 32 thousand crore on our employees. We are talking with Prime Minister and Finance Minister to mitigate this financial burden. Indian Railways is the biggest electricity power purchaser of India, and we signed some MoUs with power companies, and with the help of it, we will be able to save around 200 crore on electricity tariffs. We are building thermal power
plants and solar energy sites to lessen expenses.
Despite your ministry’s best efforts, people find it very difficult to book a ticket on IRCTC web. The railways is increasingly using Twitter as an administrative tool. Your take on that.
Now booking a train ticket is easier than earlier. We are further working on it to make it simpler. Using social network is a very good initiative by our Rail Minister to integrate all modes of communication–from the complaint book to emails, calls, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Any organisation like the railways has to be customer-friendly.
You being from the eastern India, but one often observes that trains coming from these areas are deliberately made late. I am not talking about the fog or other technical conditions, but it is there in practice. What can be the reasons behind this?
There is no doubt punctuality is a big problem in our system. We are monitoring the issue closely, and in coming days, we will definitely sort it out.
PM Modi announced that by the end of 2016, 100 stations will be wi-fi enabled. Mumbai got its share recently. Which stations are in the next loop?
We will fulfill our promises as soon as possible. The Cabinet has already given its green signal on it. Our first priority is to make all A-1, B-1 ranked stations wi-fi enabled. We
have already finished work in 12 stations, namely Delhi, Varanasi, Bangalore etc.
A report by E. Sreedharan last year claimed that railways will earn 10,000 crore more, if it stops all centralised procurement. What are you doing in this regard?
Decentralisation of various works has already been started by our government. In 2014, we constructed 263 kilometers of new tracks, while in 2015, we completed 656 kilometers of tracks. Work on gauge conversion and doubling of tracks is going on at a very good speed. 77 new policies were started last year. Once all polices are rolled down, Indian Railways will earn lot more than expected.