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Mar 15, 2012, 11.36 AM IST | Source: CNBC-TV18

Rail Budget: Modernisation & investment paramount, says Sam Pitroda

CNBC-TV18 catches up with Sam Pitroda, the chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, and the man who headed the expert group on railways to discuss the railway Budget.

Sam Pitroda, Chairman, National Knowledge Commission

CNBC-TV18 catches up with Sam Pitroda, the chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, and the man who headed the expert group on railways to discuss the railway Budget.

He lays emphasis on the need for investments in the sector and also on safety. He says that Dinesh Trivedi may be right in saying that the Railways might go the Air India way if there is not unrgent intervention by the government.

Below is the edited transcript of his interview with Shereen Bhan. Also watch the accompanying videos.

Q: The railway Budget has been hijacked now by the TMCís demand for a rollback of the fare hike. Do you believe there is any rationale for the TMC to demand a rollback in the fare hikes which has taken place after almost a decade?

A: Itís not for me to comment. I would rather focus on the report that we did. I think the key issue today is that railways need lot of investment for modernization. Railways also need focus on safety. Safety and modernization go hand in hand. When we looked at the overall situation with railways, collectively we came to conclusion that it is about time to be more visionary, bold and clear about the role railway would play in the 21st century, especially in the next decade, for growth and prosperity.

Q: Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said that if urgent intervention is not provided to the Indian Railways, it will end up like Air India? Do you believe the Indian Railways today is a story like Air India?

A: Could be.

Q: So you think the situation is as dire as it is for Air India without immediate intervention?

A: It could be.

Q: The larger question as far as the Railway Budget is concerned and the future of the railways is who is going to fund all of this money? Where is this investment going to come in for? Your committee had suggested Rs 8 lakh crore in terms of the modernization map, which you wanted in mission mode over the next 5 years, today the railway minister outlining the demand of Rs 14 lakh crore over the next decade. There has been a lot of demand of upping the gross budgetary support, but the Central Government finds itself financially constrained as well. Where is this money going to come from?

A: We must understand that the modernization plan outlined a variety of issues from tracks to bridges, to stations, public-private partnership, ICT, organization, human resource developmentÖ. If you put all of this together, we require, letís say, Rs 560,000 crore of investment in the next 5 years.

If we donít get that investment, which is possible because you donít expect all of it to come to you immediately, then the pace of modernization will be slowed down; itís okay. Our job was to really create a vision blue print; we have outlined the roadmap.

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