Describing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode as a necessity, Government on Tuesday allayed apprehensions over allowing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Railways and said it will help big ticket projects like high-speed corridors and freight corridors.
Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda also answered questions over the feasibility of bullet trains proposed in the Rail Budget, saying those projects would be funded through bilateral agreements and FDI without putting any burden on the common man of the country. The Rail Budget was approved by the House though voice vote.
"There need not be any apprehension that the FDI would do some harm. FDI will be brought in such a manner that it will be used only in infrastructure development and not in operations," he said in reply to a debate on the Budget.
The FDI will be used in big ticket projects like development of high-speed corridors, suburban corridors and freight corridors, he said.
Gowda said the growth in Railway infrastructure will fuel the growth of manufacturing in the country.
Responding to the attack by various parties over 14.2% hike in passenger fare and 6.5% increase in freight charges effected ahead of the Rail Budget, the Minister said it was the decision of the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government which the current dispensation implemented.
Talking about demands made by various members for rail projects in their respective states, Gowda said he desisted from announcing any new projects as several projects are still incomplete. "My focus is to ensure completion of those ongoing projects," he said.
With many MPs criticising the Government's move to introduce bullet train between Mumbai and Ahemedabad at a high cost of about Rs 60,000 crore, Gowda said that the high-speed train project would be funded by FDI and bilateral funding.
He said that the expectation of every citizen is that the country should have a bullet train that matches with the speed of fast trains in the world.
Insisting that he has "cautiously stayed away from populism," Gowda said that Rail Budget focuses on resource mobilisation, harnessing new technology and new innovation. "I have focused on three fronts in the budget--first completion of projects, second, mobilisation of resources and third, passenger amenities and safety," the minister said.
Taking a dig at the Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad for saying that the budget has only repeated most of the schemes of previous UPA regime, Gowda reminded him that even the passenger fare and freight hike was a decision taken by the UPA itself.
He said that Interim budget of the UPA had factored in the hike.
Regarding the demands from Kerala MPs for more rail projects, he said that land acquisition in that state is more difficult. "We have decided to set up a joint study group consisting of railway officers and Kerala MPs from both Houses," Gowda said, adding, that he will work on it once the committee sends its report.
His refrain was same for the demand of a new railway zone and railway lines from Andhra Pradesh and Telengana MPs.
Railway Minister said that 4,000 women constables for RPF will be recruited to strengthen security of women passengers.
The Rail Budget has sanctioned 54% more funds for the Northeastern region than what was given in the previous budget, Gowda added.