Tech guru Sam Pitroda has prescribed privatisation as the solution to the Indian Railways’ financial crisis, even as he has put a price tag of Rs 5.6 lakh crore on its modernisation over the next five years.
An additional Rs 4.43 lakh crore will be required in the 12th five-year plan period (2012-13 to 2017-18) to maintain its infrastructure, says the report of the Pitroda-headed experts group.
To generate the required funds, Pitroda recommends disinvestment of the railways and a “modernisation surcharge” on passenger tickets.
Significantly, the Anil Kakodkar-headed safety committee report — submitted this month — had also recommended a “safety surcharge” on passenger tickets.
Railway minister Dinesh Trivedi categorically ruled out the possibility of privatising the assets of the railways and refrained from commenting on the possibility of a passenger fare hike. “Generating the required funds is a tall order but doable,” Trivedi said at a press conference.
“Modernisation and passenger safety go hand in hand. The challenge is to rebuild the railways all over again, as the safety of passengers cannot be compromised at any cost. A major contribution of funds will have to come from the central government,” Trivedi said.
Even while referring to the Vision-2020 document brought out by his predecessor and party chief Mamata Banerjee in her term as the railway minister, Trivedi said the “Pitroda-committee report looked ahead of the earlier document”.
Pitroda believes that Rs 2.5 lakh crore of the required investment can come in by way of gross budgetary support, while another Rs 2.01 lakh crore through internal generation.
Funds can also be generated from other sources including leasing/borrowings; from public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives; through dividend rebate and from the road safety fund, says the report presented to Trivedi on Monday.