Railways is public property, will remain so: Piyush Goyal on 'privatisation' row
Railways minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday reiterated the central government is not planning to privatise the Indian Railways and said that the national carrier is the "property of the nation and the people", and urged people to not pay heed to "opposition's propaganda". "I assure you that the Indian Railways is the property of the nation and the people. No one can touch it, it will never be privatised. Don't get caught in the opposition's propaganda. This is your property, it will remain yours,” Goyal said during a public meeting in West Bengal's Kharagpur, according to news agency ANI.
Last year, the Indian Railways allowed private companies to operate certain stations in a public-private partnership (PPP) model. The move, steered by the Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation (IRSDC), aims to significantly modernise parts of a decades-old system. However, it sparked rumours that the Centre might be planning to sell off the governmental entity. These speculations received a boost in October when the government decided to set up a committee to draft a blueprint for transferring the operations of 150 trains and 50 railway stations to private firms.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, at a public meeting in Kerala last month, said that the government's "intent" to privatise the Indian Railways was a "threat to the millions of poor people who travel in trains". Responding to the opposition, Goyal hpointed out in Parliament that there was a difference between "privatisation" and "monetisation". "When you privatise, you sell off the assets permanently and it no more remains a part of the government ownership. In the railways, the plan is to monetise in terms of how it will generate resources, further investment and growth. The infrastructure of Indian Railways will never be privatised," Goyal said.
The Union minister said that private investment should be welcomed in order to improve railway services across the country. Passenger train operations, taken up through the PPP model, aims to bring a total investment of about ₹30,000 crore and is expected to make the railways a key economic driver in the strategy of investment-led growth, according to the central government.