Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday condemned the "myopic thinking" of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi for party's criticism of initiative by Railways towards private investment in running passenger trains and alleged that the opposition party did not want people to get good service and comfortable travel.
He noted that the move by the Railways will spare resources for investment in rail infrastructure in aspirational districts, northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir.
In an interview with , he said that the main opposition party has become directionless and does not know its own past policies.
"I feel the Congress party has become directionless. They do not know what their policies were in the past. And what kind of development model they want to present before the country," Goyal said.
"They don't want people to get good service, comfortable travel and expansion of railways. They don't want railways to become an engine of growth in the country's path towards progress. I condemn this myopic thinking of Congress President and her son," he added.
He said the Congress had failed in its own plans for private sector participation and the BJP-led government was succeeding.
"If Congress had plans for expansion, it was through the private sector. They failed completely. We are succeeding because the country has decisive leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PM Modiji has given direction to the country, encouraged fast development," the minister told .
"I feel what we are doing, we are implementing what the Congress started. Congress totally failed in it," he added.
The minister said the move by Railways was aimed at making rail travel more comfortable for people and such policy was "not new" and in every budget from 2004 to 2014, when UPA was in power, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) has been mentioned.
"This is a small beginning that private sector can contribute in the country's development journey. All governments have worked on this ... be it the rail budget of Mamata Banerjee in 2011," he said.
The Railways earlier this month invited Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for private participation for the operation of passenger train services over 109 Origin-Destination(OD) pairs of routes.
Goyal said the government's thinking was that modern trains, which are in service in the world and provide easy mode to travel to people, should come to India under public-private participation.
"When the trains come, they will be with the latest technology and provide comfortable travel. There will be investment on a large scale to bring the trains. They will move on high speed and the money of Indian Railways which would have gone to bring these trains in the normal course, we will use that money for expanding railways in aspirational districts, northeast and Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
The minister said that modern technology will come to India under `Make in India'.
"The trains will be made in India which will meet the local requirement and we will be able to export. The policy has been adopted with thinking to make rail travel more comfortable and this policy is not new. In every budget from 2004 to 2014 in every budget Public Private Partnership has been mentioned," he said.
The minister also referred to budget speeches of Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and to speeches of former Railway Ministers including Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee.
"When Chidambaramji presented the budget in 2005, he said the government will recognise the leading role played by the private sector and provide a supportive policy environment and stable tax policy," Goyal said.
He stated that Lalu Prasad said in the same year in his rail budget that in the coming years "we propose with help of RLDA (Rail Land Development Authority) to develop metro stations into world-class modern stations and extend passenger amenities through the construction of food plazas shopping malls on vacant land".
The minister recalled that the speech also mentioned that several PPP initiatives were being taken to garner resources through non-traditional methods for modernisation of railways to provide enhanced facilities to users.
"And this has been said in every budget speech or railway budget speech," he said.
He noted that Chidambaram had stated in 2007 that "PPP model has enabled greater private sector participation in creation and maintenance of infrastructure."
He referred to Lalu Prasad stating in his 2008 speech that there is a plan to invest 2.5 lakh crore in five years.
"However it will be difficult to finance such a large investment programme from railways' own sources. Therefore, we started many PPP schemes for attracting investment of 1 lakh crore," Goyal quoted Prasad as saying.
The minister said that Railways has not been privatised. "Indian Railways is the property of the country and will remain so and serve the poor," Goyal told .
He said the involvement of private players has brought down prices of air tickets.
The minister said that the government is also expanding rail facilities with huge investment.
Ministry of Railways earlier this month invited Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for private participation for the operation of passenger train services over 109 Origin-Destination(OD) pairs of routes through the introduction of 151 modern Trains (Rakes).
The 109 OD pairs have been formed into 12 clusters across the Indian Railway network. Each train shall have a minimum of 16 coaches.
The ministry had said that the project, the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over Indian Railways network, would entail private sector investment of about Rs 30,000 crore.
It had said that the majority of trains would be manufactured in India (Make in India) and the private entity will be responsible for financing, procuring, operation and maintenance of the trains.
The ministry said trains shall be designed for a maximum speed of 160 kmph and there would be a substantial reduction in journey time.
The objective of the initiative, the ministry said, was to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world-class travel experience to passengers and also reduce demand-supply deficit in the passenger transportation sector.
These trains shall be operated by the driver and guard of Indian Railways and operation and maintenance of the passenger trains would be governed by standards and specifications and requirements specified by the Railways.
( With inputs from ANI )