New Delhi, July 11 (PTI): The Opposition in Lok Sabha on Thursday accused the Modi government of trying to sell off railways’ assets instead of focusing on services, but the BJP asserted that the transport behemoth is breaking new ground everyday especially in areas of infrastructure and safety.
During a debate on demands for grants under the Ministry of Railways, the Congress, TMC and other parties tore into the government as they opposed alleged attempts to privatise the railways and claimed it was “selling dreams” like the ‘bullet train’ to the people which were not feasible
Taking a swipe at the government, Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the aviation minister wants to sell Air India, the railways minister wants to sell its assets and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he alleged, will “one day sell the country”.
He said the BJP-led NDA government has consistently failed to meet its targets since it came to power first in 2014 and mocked its statement of INR 50 lakh crore investment in the coming years.
It is like seeking a tent to sleep when there is not even a mat, he said while initiating the debate.
The Congress leader noted that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stated that railways will not be privatised, the Budget talks about public private partnership, corporatisation and disinvestment.
The railways’ operating ratio was 98.4 per cent in 2017- 18, he said adding its revenue and expenditure fell short of official claims.
The Congress leader said the Government was talking about bullet train while the freight services were suffering and said it has “become a government of MoU”.
He accused the government of privatising profit-making production units of railways, including the one in Rae Bareli, the Lok Sabha constituency of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.
NCP MP Supriya Sule sought an assurance from the government that it would not privatise the railways.
Sule said unlike Air India, where government is trying for disinvestment, the minister should assure the house it wouldn’t privatise the railways.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) member Sudip Bandyopadhyay said the bullet train concept is not possible in India and it is a “hoax”.
Sule too took a swipe at the government over the delay in bullet train project, saying like the BJP’s 2014 poll slogan of ‘achche din’, the promise of bullet train may also remain unfulfilled.
Bandyopadhyay said that the government should look at railway bridges which are over 100 years old as it involves safety and security of passengers.
He said there is a huge vacancy for gangmen which has reached two lakh and also a shortage of rail drivers.
Countering the opposition’s allegations, BJP MP Sunil Kumar Singh Thursday said the performance of railways is much better now that it was under the Congress rule and it was achieving new milestones.
Railway accidents have drastically reduced by 73 per cent in the five-year period of Modi government from 2014 to 2019, he noted.
Singh slammed the previous Congress governments and said during their time, “the interest of leaders and party politics were priorities while the nation’s interest comes first for the NDA government.”
He said the capital expenditure more than doubled to INR 4.97 lakh crore during 2014-19 compared to 2.3 lakh crore in 2009-14.
He said government has set a target of capital expenditure of INR 1.6 lakh crore in the current financial year.
Participating in the debate, DMK member Kanimozhi alleged that those Railways still employ manual scavengers, and said “it is a shame for the nation.”
She alleged the government wants to hide this by appointing them through contractors.