MINISTER FOR RAILWAYS
AS POWER MINISTER IN NDA-I, Suresh Prabhu pioneered the landmark Electricity Act of 2003 which set the stage for reforms in the power sector. Helming another critical ministry now, Prabhu continues on the path of reform. Tenders are now floated in six months (down from two years), with e-tenders ushering in transparency. He has mooted an independent regulator, the Railway Development Authority, to fix prices and regulate policies, dismantled a thriving illegal transfer-posting industry and merged the rail budget with the Union budget. There are, however, serious issues of safety—derailments last year killed over 115 people. Much of the damage was down to ageing infrastructure and a fleet of over 40,000 coaches without safety features. Sluggish core sector growth directly impacted the railways’ core earning—freight. This even as a record Rs 1.31 lakh crore between 2017 and 2018 was allocated to doubling existing tracks, electrifying old ones and converting old lines to broad guage. Prabhu approved two new locomotive factories in Bihar, one of the largest FDIs in India, the combined book orders worth over Rs 40,000 crore. The full impact of the restructuring will be felt by 2020. By then, the Dedicated Freight Corridor, over 3,000 km of high speed rail tracks, should materialise.
“We are completely overhauling the railways. It’s not plastic surgery, it is organ replacement.”