Prabhu has tough task of steering troubled Railways

Prabhu has tough task of steering troubled Railways

New Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu faces many challenges to steer Railways towards making profits without compromising the interest of common passengers. He also needs to address issues involving the bureaucracy while bringing private investments in mega projects like bullet trains.

After taking charge on Monday, the minister indicated the direction towards which he intends to drive the Railways.“The Railways is an integrating factor for the economy and if we work in this direction, we can propel the economy,” he told reporters.

Though, the restructuring of the bureaucracy, particularly the Railway Board, has been debated since the early days of new economic policy, the idea gained a momentum during the stint of Trinamool leader Dinesh Trivedi as rail minister.

However, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge of the government, it became a priority. Modi appointed a high level committee for restructuring of the Railway Board and making recommendations on resource mobilisation under the leadership of economist Bibek Debroy.  The exercise is being resisted not only by the Railway Board, but also by trade unions. Prabhu has to put off such resistances.

The aspect of resource mobilisation is intrinsically related to the restructuring of the bureaucracy. The government believes that Railways need bureaucratic changes to make it more responsive to private investors. The government wants foreign and domestic investment for bullet trains, development of stations and modernisation of safety sector.

Given his experience in   dealing with financial issues, he is expected to devise instruments which would make it easy to attract such investments.

Prabhu also has to clear the hurdle in providing better services to passengers related to food, sanitation and ticketing. His predecessors, including immediate one Sadanand Gowda, tried to address the problem but without success. The Railways not only hiked the passenger fare but is also charging high prices on premium bookings.  Now, people are asking for better services.

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