India’s railways sector has been in the news recently – for the wrong reasons. From trains derailing to food poisoning in the newly-launched Tejas Express, the behemoth has had its share of negative headlines. And sure enough, Railways got a new Cabinet minister in Piyush Goyal.
Goyal has his task cut out – to revamp one of the oldest bureaucracies and bring it up to date.
Here are a few areas in which Railways scores well, or poorly.
The nation’s railroad infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index, holds the 28th rank out of 101 countries.
India, being a country which is highly dependent on the railways, is nowhere close to the top countries with the best railway infrastructure. The WEF Global Competitiveness Index is a comparison of more than 100 countries. The countries are scored out of 10. If a country has a score above 6, then the country is said to be developed.
China ranks 12th in the rail infra ranking with a score of 5.3 out of 10. And on the other hand, India’s lifeline sector scores 4.4 out of 10, indicating that there is a lot of bucking up to do.
Former Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu had gone to the extent of showing his willingness to resign from his post due to the train accidents and derailments in his tenure. The CAG report, while Prabhu was still the Minister, also pointed out many liabilities in the sector. The report highlighted poor food quality, superfast trains frequently delayed, and alleged that the organised disaster management team didn’t do an efficient job.
In the Cabinet Reshuffle, former Power Minister Piyush Goyal took charge of the Railway Ministry.
As soon as Goyal came to power, he proposed many reforms for the sector. The minister proposed electric locomotive trains instead of diesel ones as a step towards electrifying the railways. He has also said that the government will spend Rs 1,000 crore per month on renewing the tracks to avoid derailments.
Trains, barring metro rail in cities, are running on diesel. Goyal has been pushing to build electric locomotives for railways as well and claims that over Rs 16,000 crore of expenditure can be saved. Goyal said that the sector has tied up with Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) for funding.
India’s first Make in India contract with General Electric will see the setting up of a diesel locomotives factory in Bihar, but there have been hurdles. However, after GE warned that India will have to face penalties if the deal is called off, Goyal later clarified that the diesel locomotives factory with GE is to stay. Reports say that Goyal is in talks with the firm to set up an electric locomotives factory as well.
But in terms of electricity supply, according to the WEF, India holds the 80th position out of 137 countries. Given its low ranking and high hopes of electrifying the railways, India’s rail infrastructure requires a major revamp.
Here are the countries with top quality electricity supply
India needs to step its game up by investing in electrification schemes such as Saubhagya, which aims to electrify all households by 2019.