M K Shukla
Railways minister Suresh Prabhu is a finance man. And he has put his exceptional ability in the service of Lord Vishwakarma. In his second budget for the largest employer in the country, he has promised to pack the railways with most modern gadgets. At the same time, he has continued to march along the growth path he set for himself in the FY16 budget. He has promised to commission 7KM of broad guage line per day in FY17, to be increased to 13 KM in FY18 and 19KM in FY19 – the year of new national election.
According to his calculations, growth projects of railways covered by the FY17 budget would trigger creation of 9 crore mandays (or for 2,50,000 people in regular employment). The job creation would escalate to 14 crore (or for four lakh people employed in work 365 days a year) in FY19. This would help Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi to showcase his achievement on job score card in the 2019 general national election.
For the first time in 45 years or so, the railways rolling stock is set to increase. Prabhu has earmarked Rs 1.21 lakh crore for capacity creation. He has promised to set in motion work on new freight corridors Delhi-Chennai, Kharagpur-Mumbai, Kharagpur-Vijayawada, execute modernization of coaches and expansion of tracks by as much as 2,800 KM, add to the capacity of containerized freight service and a wide gamut of services he unveiled in the FY16 budget. The expansion in railway tracks and expansion means that for the first time in history, both Mizoram and Manipur would be covered by the railways – that, too, through its broad gauge network.
Since every Re one invested in the railways spins of economic activities worth Rs 5, it’s reasonable to expect that the capacity creation project would spark Rs six lakh crore of fresh wave of allied and subsidiary activities. Prabhu’s promise of improving everything from toilets to catering would help ignite huge public and private investments to meet the demands of about 20 million passengers who travel by train everyday.