Railway minister Suresh Prabhu dedicated an entire paragraph to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose imprint was ubiquitous throughout the budget speechon Thursday.
The minister listed one goal after another to modernise “Bharatiya Rail”, punctuating his over-an-hour address in Parliament with Modi’s pet projects and campaigns such as Swachh Bharat or clean India and yoga.
“The railways is an integral part of all the flagship programmes that our Prime Minister has launched from Swachh Bharat to Make in India, and from Digital India to Skill India.”
Yoga, the Prime Minister’s personal favourite, would be taught to the mammoth public transporter’s frontline staff, especially Railway Protection Force personnel.
The oft-repeated cleanliness drive in the railways was re-packaged as Swachh Rail, Swachh Bharat. “Ensuring higher standards of cleanliness is of utmost priority for us,” Prabhu said.
The Prime Minister’s Make in India initiative was at play when the minister, “in accordance with his (Modi’s) vision” for innovation, technology development and manufacturing, announced that a council named Kayakalp would be set up for “business reengineering and introducing a spirit of innovation” in the railways.
Varanasi, the constituency Modi represents in the Lok Sabha, found mention too. It will get a Malaviya Chair at IIT Varanasi, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), to help develop new materials for the railways. BHU founder, freedom fighter-educationist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya was conferred the Bharat Ratna last year after the NDA came to power.
Prabhu’s capacity-augmentation initiatives underlined another focus area of the Prime Minister — Skill India. Big-ticket manufacturing ideas, including green locomotives with high horsepower, commodity-specific wagons and track management equipment, “will result in creation of job opportunities”, he said.
The minister invoked Swami Vivekananda in his speech, much the same way as Modi does to make a point.
The promise to make inter-metro trips — Delhi-Kolkata or Delhi-Mumbai — into overnight journeys stemmed from Modi’s 17-point agenda sent to the ministries after the NDA came to power.
The railways was hardwired to Modi’s vision of Digital India as Prabhu pledged WiFi at railway stations.
“He challenged us with an inspirational objective when he said the age of poverty alleviation was over and the era of poverty elimination has begun. Indian Railways will play its part in this historic mission,” the minister said.
He signed off with Modi’s key slogan: Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat (One India, Best India).