Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday lashed out at the Centre for its invitation to private firms to manufacture and run passenger trains. The Ministry of Railways said in a press release on Thursday that private operators can run the trains for 35 years.
In a tweet in Hindi, Gandhi claimed that the people of India will not forgive the government for this move. In India, railway transport is currently wholly under the ownership of the government.
The ministry’s proposal on Thursday contained manufacturing and running 151 trains over 109 routes, which will seek private investment up to Rs 30,000 crore.
Most of the trains will be manufactured under the Make In India initiative, the Railway Ministry said. “The private entity shall be responsible for financing, procuring, operation and maintenance of the trains,” it added. The trains will have speeds up to 160 km per hour, which will reduce travel time. The private company will pay to the Indian Railways haulage charges, energy charges according to consumption and a fixed share of gross revenue.
“The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers, and also reduce demand supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector,” the ministry said. The trains will use motormen and guards employed with the Indian Railways.
However, the announcement drew disapproval from Gandhi, who called the Railways the “lifeline of the poor”. “The railways are the lifeline for the poor and the government is taking it away from them,” Gandhi tweeted. “Take away what you can. But do remember, the people will give a befitting response to this.”
The Congress leader has repeatedly attacked the government over the past three weeks for its handling of the border dispute with China. The crisis erupted on June 15 when 20 Indian soldiers were killed and 76 wounded in a clash with their Chinese counterparts in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control.
On June 30, Gandhi used data to show that Chinese imports into the country had risen since 2014, the year the Narendra Modi-led government first came to power, and took a jibe at the Make In India initiative. On June 21, he accused the prime minister of surrendering to China, after Modi said in a meeting with Opposition leaders that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army had not intruded into Indian territory.