Staunchly declining to comment on personalities, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee says to Business Standard that there are enough assets with the organisation to enable a sustained improvement in operations which will also push development. Edited excerpts:
How do you envisage the Eastern Industrial Corridor?
The foundations are being laid for the development of an Eastern Industrial Corridor, alongside the Eastern Freight Corridor, a meshing of the Railways' land bank, so that the vast tracts can be effectively utilised to catalyse development in the area; with investment in rolling stock production and assembly facilities to develop rail-based industrial clusters, drawing upon the advantage of proximity to mines, labour force and metal works markets.
For the Indian Railways, land is the biggest asset. If land is available, everything can be done jointly on a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
The target for freight. . .
The freight traffic target for 2009-10 has been fixed at 880 million tonnes. This will give an incremental loading of 47 million tonnes over 2008-09, fixed in light of the special measures to give an economic stimulus as a counter-recession measure and keeping in view the special efforts that the railways will make to attract more bulk traffic and new traffic streams.
A big problem is safety on railways.
Law and order is the responsibility of the state governments. The railways have only 50 per cent responsibility.
The big idea in your budget is the freight and industrial corridors. How quickly will we see these, especially the Eastern Industrial Corridor?
As I have said in the budget, I will set up an expert committee with members from the chambers of commerce, Ficci and CII, to help us put together a business plan. Once this is done, you will see action.
You had said you would lay an optic fibre cable network as far back as 2001-02. This did not take off. You have announced that the same set of people who did the work then will be doing it again.
Yes, the network was to be laid for commercial utilisation. It was done by Sam Pitroda then, but they managed to do less than half the work. So, I am going to constitute an expert committee headed by Mr Pitroda to suggest further innovations.