Cabinet rejig: Railway minister Piyush Goyal will have to keep his record intact
Railways has seen three ministers in the three years of the Modi government, so it is imperative that Goyal manages to keep the reigns for the next two years.Updated: Sep 03, 2017 23:55 IST
Piyush Goyal faces the herculean task of injecting efficiency in the world’s fifth biggest rail network that employs close to 15 lakh people, where every decision gets caught in the maze of unions.
Despite rising investments in safety measures, railways have demonstrated the lack of it. Cross subsidisation to keep passenger fares low is hurting its finances and freight has been showing the steady move away from rail to road.
As Goyal takes the charge of the railways, his skills as a doer, problem solver and a dynamic minister will be tested. Railways has seen three ministers in the three years of the Modi government, so it is imperative that Goyal manages to keep the reigns for the next two years.
He is not new to challenges. There were many in the ministries Goyal has handled so far, such as lack of capital, dependence on China for solar panels, coal block allocation, stranded projects. But he has not allowed these road bumps to become bottlenecks. Goyal will have to ensure that he keeps this track record intact, unsuccessful PPPs, rising costs are challenges that await him in the rail ministry.
In the previous years, railways has missed most of its targets from electrification, track doubling, bridge work etc.
In fact, railways spends so heavily on operating costs that nothing is left for capital expenditure. India’s largest PSU needs close to Rs5 lakh crore to just complete pending projects. To keep this behemoth sustainable, Goyal has to look for sources of funding other than the government.
After inheriting his political career from his father, Ved Prakash Goyal, the shipping minister during Vajpayee’s time, Goyal came into his own as he rose up the ranks to become BJP’s treasurer. Having moved around in the Mumbai circles of corporate India, Piyush knew how to solve problems and how to attract investors.
Sectors such as coal and mining are notorious for corruption, Goyal has managed to inject transparency in these. He will have to repeat it with railways, where allegations of corruption have been hurled at each department from appointments to new projects to grants of contracts.
Connected with a changing India, Goyal had been quick to understand the importance of consumer empowerment and used modern-day technology to build various apps to show the state of India’s power sector.
The only way to increase fares charged by railways is by displaying better services, here consumer engagement will have to be encouraged.
In three years, Goyal has made India the second most attractive country for renewable energy. Will he be able to repeat his success in his previous ministries? Well, he has Ashwani Lohani waiting to help him.