In 2015, we have done many things, says Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, adding, ‘We got huge resources for Railways, which was always a problem’.
The Railways had to grapple with shortfall in revenue targets and ‘unbearable burden’ of Pay Commission recommendations in 2015 and hopes to address the twin issues next year.
Though earnings were up by 6.67 per cent up to December 10 as compared to last year, there was a decline in meeting the target.
Railways’ earnings till December 10 were Rs 1,11,834.32 crore (Rs 1,118.34 billion) as against the target of Rs 1,22,639.16 crore (Rs 1,226.39 billion), a decline of 8.8 per cent.
“In 2015, one of the challenges we have been facing is not getting enough cargo. So revenues are down.
“Because steel, cement, iron ore demand is very bad. Import and export are down.
“These are sources for cargo. So targets are falling short,” Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu told PTI.
Commuters line up to board a passenger train at a railway station in Kolkata.
He said this when asked about his regrets in 2015 on things he could not do or could have done better.
He also said Seventh Pay Commission recommendations are equally a major challenge as Railways has to shell out additional Rs 32,000 crore (Rs 320 billion) annually.
“Secondly, Pay Commission recommendation is another big challenge.
“The Rs 32,000-crore (Rs 320-billion) additional burden for Pay Commission on Railways is unbearable.
“These are major challenges,” he said and added “these were two challenges of 2015 I hope we will be able to address it in 2016.
“On Pay Commission, we will have to talk to the Finance Ministry.”
A man takes a bath on a railway track next to a train passing through a slum area
Asked whether the recent slum demolition incident involving death of a child at Shakurbasti in Delhi is a setback as it would not be easy to evacuate encroachers from railway land, Prabhu said, “Public property is used for public good.
“So we have to find out ways. There has to be a public debate.
“We do not want to construct bungalows there.”
However, he emphasised on adopting human approach in dealing with removal of encroachers.
“We have to find out best possible ways and at the same time I have instructed all my officers to do it in a humane way.
“I was not aware when demolitions took place, otherwise I would have told them not to do it at this particular time.
“But we will handle it in a humane way.”
People travel in an overcrowded passenger train.
Image: People travel in an overcrowded passenger train. Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters
Asked why he did not raise fares despite adverse financial condition, Prabhu quoted Abraham Lincoln saying, “We have tried to do everything in the interest of Railways.
“So what we have done is for the Railways, by the Railways and of the Railways.”
However, he said there were many good things that happened in Railways in 2015.
“In 2015, we have done many things. First of all, getting huge resources for Railway which was always a problem.
“Getting finances for Railways is a great achievement,” he said.
Known for his reform-oriented approach, Prabhu described the decision to delegate powers to senior railway officials including tenders as ‘path-breaking’ and an attempt to bring transparency in Railways.
“I have started restructuring by delegating powers to general managers and divisional railway managers which is path-breaking in Railways.
A high speed New Delhi Agra test train leaves New Delhi station.
“We brought a complete transparency into the Railways.
“Not a single tender has come to me since I became minister. This is a major reform in Railways,” he claimed.
Focusing on transparency, he said steps are being taken for bringing all tenders on e-tendering mode.
“Now we are bringing all tenders under e-tendering platform.
“We have started postings, appointments, transfer also a in a transparent way.
“We have started a process of online examination for recruitment which will eliminate corruption in a significant way.”
Referring to ‘Make-in-India’ campaign in Railways, he said, “We have started the campaign in a major way by launching Rs 40,000-crore (Rs 400-billion) locomotive projects in Madhepura and Marhora in Bihar.
Metupalayam Ooty Nilgiri Passenger train, India’s slowest train, which runs at a speed of 10 kmph
Image: Metupalayam Ooty Nilgiri Passenger train, India’s slowest train, which runs at a speed of 10 kmph. Photograph: Stephan Niewolik/Wikimedia Commons
“This is a big ‘Make-in-India’ effort as it will bring jobs that to in Bihar. This will also bring new technology to India.”
He said many ancillary units will be benefiting from the projects as there will be suppliers for the factories.
“It will bring small and medium level economy system in India. Since these manufacturers are supplying to a world’s top company they will supply to other countries in due course,” he said.
On the decision on the multi-crore Train Set project, he said, “Whether locomotive factories or train set, I took the decisions for Railways’ interest. Whatever was in Railways interest, I tried to do that.”
Highlighting the comprehensive agreement with Japan on rail sector, Prabhu said, “Japanese collaboration is going to upgrade our existing system, including safety, research, in a significant way.
“Agreement on bullet train is also there.”
Referring to the Rail Budget 2015-16, he said majority of announcements made have been implemented.
“We have fulfilled 110 announcements made in budget,” he said.
On the proposed reform on accounting system, he said, “Accounting reforms for change in accounting system have already started. Audit of human resources and energy are also being undertaken.”
Suresh Prabhu has been quick to grasp the main reasons why the Indian Railways are in dire straits. Photograph: Press Information Bureau
The minister said there is a focus on energy conservation.
“While energy audit is going on there are steps to conserve energy and to reduce energy cost,” he said.
On the proposed Railway Regulatory Authority, Prabhu said, “Draft is ready and we will circulate it to all stakeholders seeking their views before finalising it.However, we could change its name.”