India is way behind China on investment in railway, including border infrastructure, says Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, even as he defends the government’s delivery record in MoUs with other countries such as Japan, China and Korea
In terms of India’s ambitions abroad, where does the Indian Railways hope to grow?
We already have connectivity with Bangladesh and we would like to improve on that with more lines. Also with Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. The budget allocation for the North-East has increased dramatically just to take this in. Connecting to our neighbours is definitely a priority.
How much is competition with China an issue for you?
China has invested every year what we plan to invest in five years. Till 2014, when we came to power, they would invest in 6 months what we did in 5 years. We will now increase our investment to $142 billion over the next five years, and we are on track to do that, but that will still be nothing compared to China’s investment. China is way ahead of us in terms of railways investment. In any case, if India wants to have overall infrastructure of a good quality, we must step up railway infrastructure.
We are always constrained by the fact that the Finance Ministry will have limited resources, and won’t be able to give us more investment. So, for the first time we have looked at extra-budget resources. In the Finance Minister’s budget speech, he said they would allocate ₹1,31,000 crore for railways, of which the gross budgetary support is ₹55,000 crore. So the balance will come from extra-budget resources which is part of the Consolidated Fund of India. Finance ministry has told us to raise the funds ourselves, which we can do at a cheaper rate. The question you are asking is very valid, which is about China’s deep infrastructure spending which is much greater than ours. Read More…