Piyush Goyal took charge as railway minister on Monday at a time when the state-run transporter has recorded the highest number of deaths due to derailments in a decade and is staring at declining business.
“Aiming towards better mobility, connectivity and service for the people of India,” tweeted Piyush Goyal, who will be the third railway minister in BJP’s three-year rule.
The new minister has the tough task of regaining people’s confidence in the state-run transporter which has been hit by a spate of derailments and deaths. Goyal’s predecessor Suresh Prabhu was present to hand over charge.
Prabhu had not attended office after August 23, when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and offered to resign after the derailments last month. Piyush Goyal will be helped by the fact that initiatives taken by Prabhu — such as managing long-term finance and the move to set up a rail development authority — have laid the foundation on which he can build and accelerate modernisation, capacity expansion and technical upgrade of assets which were delayed due to funds crunch.
However, the key to Goyal’s success will be in getting a handle on the railway bureaucracy which stubbornly works in silos instead of as an organic whole and has proved to be a stumbling block in the modernisation process. Prabhu failed to tame the rail bureaucracy despite persistent efforts. Goyal said huge investments were made in three years which will definitely lead to development of railways.
The confusion over railway ministry’s role as a policymaking entity and as a line department led to “criminal” neglect of the transporter which despite having a monopoly in the rail transport business is running in losses and risking people’s lives. This is largely because it has miserably failed to modernise and upgrade its age-old assets. Along with broad policy making and managing finances, Goyal will have to oversee the running of more than 12,000 trains every day which carry over 23 million passengers daily — equivalent to moving the entire population of Australia.