Our honorable member of Parliament, Dr. Sampath, honorable MLA Mr. O. Rajagopal ji, honorable MLA Mr. I.B. Sathish ji, member (Traction) Mr. Ghanshyam Singh, member (Engineering) Mr. Chaube, member (Rolling Stock) Mr. Rajesh Agarwal, officials from Railways, both the Railway Board and in Southern Railway, ladies and gentleman. At the outset, I apologize that we could not start earlier, but we had a cabinet meeting this morning. And I have come straight from the cabinet to this programme. I am grateful for your indulgence. I am extremely delighted to participate in this programme today, which would probably be amongst my last programmes of the Railways before we all get into election mode and start the campaign for the Lok Sabha elections.
And it’s a matter of great happiness for me that this last programme is for a project in a state that I love very dearly. I am delighted that it’s in a state which is God’s own country, and truly a place which has a very high degree of spiritualism. It has been in the forefront of social reform and is probably the most preferred tourist destination that we have in India. Kerala has given us very great sons of the soil. It’s known as the land of peace and culture. Adi Shankaracharya ji started his journey from Kerala. Ayurveda is now going to the whole world with its center from Kerala. And more particularly, when we look at Thiruvananthapuram, it’s quite a lot like my own home city of Mumbai. It has a beautiful coastline. It’s very charming, if I may say so. Of course, much prettier and much less congested than Mumbai and in some sense it’s also the gateway to Kerala and then the gateway to India.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government has consistently focused on development for all areas in the country – north, south, east, west, north-east, central India, across the country. We are focused on large scale infrastructure creation, both physical and social. We are focused on reaching the fruits of development to 130 crore citizens of India across the length and breadth of the country. And we believe in “Sabka saath sabka vikas”. Until every section sees progress and prosperity, every area of the country sees progress and prosperity and every person experiences the benefits of this prosperity, this improvement in the country, the work can never be complete. But the rapid pace at which we have expanded infrastructure, particularly in the Railways, across different regions of the country, decongesting existing bottlenecks, has been unprecedented.
In fact, this demand from Thiruvananthapuram has been a long-standing demand. We already have two coaching terminals, central and the Kochuveli terminal. This new coaching terminal at Nemom, in the Thiruvananthapuram division, will really help in decongesting the already overloaded current coaching terminals. And in any case with no land available at the Thiruvananthapuram central yard, we could not possibly have expanded that yard any further. Whereas there is a lot of demand from the honorable MPs, MLAs, public representatives, government, to increase the train services, increase the passenger amenities, particularly to Thiruvananthapuram, both from north India and from the Chennai direction, Coimbatore-Chennai direction.
Unfortunately, for lack of adequate coaching facility, we have not been able to accept some of these demands. With the commencement of work at this new coaching terminal, we can start providing a large number of new trains which will either originate or terminate in Thiruvananthapuram. It will decongest the existing already overloaded coaching terminals and will help us take more and more mail and express trains all the way up to Thiruvananthapuram. With this added connectivity after this yard expansion, I think the quality and speed of maintenance also will become much faster.
And it’s a very holistic plan of about a 148 crores that has been drawn up for this new coaching terminal. It will have 5 stabling lines. One common loop along these lines, one down main line, one up main line, two platforms, 3 road-over bridges, and one foot-over bridge. All of these things have been planned for this new coaching terminal. I can only at this juncture request the honorable public representatives, MPs, MLAs, whoever gathered here today and the state government and their officials if they can help us by expediting land acquisitions. We gave the request on 26th March 2018 after this project was included in the pink book for 2018-19, that is more than one year ago. This item was included in the Railway budget.
We immediately wrote on 26th March 2018 as soon as the budget got passed last year, requesting the government of Kerala to acquire 7.18 hectares of land so that we can speedily finish the project. I would urge all of you to help us get this land quickly while we are commencing the work within the available land and, therefore, can do only do a small portion of the work right now. I do hope the state government will help us get the entire 7.18 hectares land required for the project so that we can serve the people of Thiruvananthapuram and the people of Kerala better and with faster mobility, much more convenient connections and make the passenger experience truly memorable.
At this stage, I would like to mention a few of the important achievements of the Thiruvananthapuram area that we have over the last few years. After the government of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi came in, we have started three new trains – Kochuveli-Indore weekly express, Thiruvananthapuram-Nizamuddin to Delhi weekly express via Kottayam and the Thiruvananthapuram-Nizamuddin weekly express via LMP. Now, these are the three trains started, but after we get this land, and we can speedily do the new coaching terminal, coupled with our thrust for adding electrification on the whole routes coming out of Kerala, coupled with our thrust to double, triple and quadruple the mainlines wherever there is demand in traffic.
I am sure far more services can be taken to Kerala so that the people can be connected with the rest of India in a very seamless fashion. We have done more than 13 crore worth of passenger amenities with FOBs at Kochuveli and Thiruvananthapuram. Six escalators have been set up at Thiruvananthapuram, a new booking facility at the central station has been set up, and circulating areas, waiting halls, all of them have been improved in the last few years. Currently, new platform shelters, retiring room, and improvement in parking area at Thiruvananthapuram central station is going on at a cost of 2.5 crore rupees. I am also happy to share with you that the doubling of the 86 km Thiruvananthapuram-Kanyakumari railway line for which 133 crores has been provided in the 2019-20 interim budget which was announced last month.
When I was seeing the average amount we spent in Kerala for the various projects, I was happy to note that the Indian railways is today spending nearly 3 times the amount that was being spent earlier on the development of infrastructure in Kerala. Of course, if we can get cooperation with faster land acquisition then there are many more projects which we want to pursue and expedite so that the connections to Kerala can be improved. And clearly, if we can get a little more support on land acquisitions, I can assure the people of Kerala that while we have done a two and a half to three times investment in the last 5 years compared to the previous 5 years, we will be able to do far more with the support and cooperation if the local authorities.
We have also introduced 16 new train services in the state of Kerala in the last 5 years and have spent 117 crore on improved facilities for passengers by providing 21 foot-over bridges, 20 escalators, 15 lifts and 180 point of sale machines at different stations in Kerala. You will be happy to know that today there is no unmanned level crossing in the entire state of Kerala on the Broad gauge sector and all the stations have been converted to 100 percent LED lightings, which is far more efficient both in terms of energy consumption and gives you much brighter illumination.
Currently, we have 10 ongoing projects for 738 km of expansion at a cost rupees 7000 crores. I can only add that the railways is committed to faster development of Kerala, committed to making Nemom and the state of Kerala a better tourist destination, which will help to transform the local economy and give a big boost to generation of employment and improve customer amenities and facilities for all the people using the train service in Kerala.
At this juncture, I must also mention that we are very sensitive to the safety and well-being of the people of Kerala. There is a large number of fishermen in Kerala for whom now the government in the last budget has announced a separate department of fisheries. We have also decided to give Kisan credit cards to all the fishermen and to provide interest subvention, to provide loans to our fishermen, and the reduced interest rates, very similar to the farmers. So if they get a 2 percent reduction in interest while taking the loan and for timely repayment another 3 percent reduction. So the effective cost of borrowing of our fishermen of Kerala brothers and sisters will be down to almost 4 percent.
Similarly, the first installment of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sanman Nidhi has already been distributed in Kerala also. I am happy that already over 2 crore farmers in the country, several of them from Kerala who are small and marginal farmers have started receiving the first installment of 2000 rupees for this 4 months period December to March 2019. I would urge the state government to send the final list of all the small and marginal farmers eligible under PM Kisan Yojana, so that the first installment can be expeditiously distributed and sent to all our deserving farmers who have made this country proud with their sheer hard work, dedication and commitment to make India a food secure and self-sufficient in food trade country.
I am also delighted that the various programmes for women empowerment that this government has initiated are helping our mothers and sisters, and daughters of Kerala. The Ujwala Yojana, by which the poor people are being given free cooking gas connection. The Mudra Yojna, by which crores of women and self-help groups have got low-interest loan directly from the banks, without having to be dependent on the moneylenders, by which they can stand on their own feet, start their own activity, business. Under Stand Up India, the effort that we have done to promote free healthcare for 50 crore people of the whole country, several of whom come from Kerala so that no poor person is ever deprived of quality healthcare whenever he needs any medical treatment.
Today, I am happy to report you that effective today all the railways’ hospitals, 93 railway hospitals also will be joining the Ayushman Bharat Yojna so that people can get the benefit of the free healthcare programme that Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has launched in the country, which will benefit 50 crore Indians. I hope the people of Kerala can also speedily benefit from that and I would urge all the officials and the public representatives in Kerala, to ensure that all the deserving and needy people are able to get the benefit of Ayushman Bharat in Kerala also.
The people of Kerala in a big way are also engaged in unorganized labor activities, particularly, related to tourism, many of them are working in the infrastructure creation, many agricultural laborers are working in the state of Kerala. There are people working as domestic help, there are people working as security guards, carpenters, masons. There are hawkers who are running small businesses. For all such people, two days back the honorable Prime Minister has launched the Pradhan Mantri Sram Yogi Mandhan Yojna by which persons in the age group 18-40 can join this pension scheme, which is administered by Life Insurance Corporation, LIC of India. And after they become 60 years old, they will get a minimum 3000 rupees pension under the scheme. 50 percent of the premium will be paid fully by the central government.
And I hope the people of Kerala will take advantage of this and quickly join or encourage people who are working in your respective constituency, in your areas of work, to quickly take the benefit of this PMSYM Yojna so that more and more people can ensure social security for their post-retirement life. I am also very delighted that today we have launched a 100 percent indigenously developed make in India initiative high-speed WAP-7HS locomotive, which has been developed by our railway engineers completely in house at the Chittaranjan locomotive works.
At the outset, I would like to congratulate all the engineers, all the workers and the entire railway family for one more feather in their cap to promote make in India, to make India the hub of invention, innovation and manufacturing and to make India a manufacturer of indigenously developed modern equipment, which will help not only improve the facilities for Indian railways but will help us export to the rest of the world and earn precious foreign exchange for India while providing thousands and thousands of people with new job opportunities under the Make in India programme.
About 20 years ago, we had imported the designs of these electric locomotives and after that, we have been, by and large, only following the pattern of imported design. I am delighted that the most powerful passenger locomotive over the Indian Railways, which will be capable of hauling 24 coaches instead of 140 km/hr now at 160 km/hr has been designed and manufactured at CLW by our own engineers and our own workers, making the entire nation proud of the Indian engineering talent and the Indian skilled manpower talent. This new engine will help us serve larger distances much faster, will reduce pollution levels, and will improve the operation initially of premium trains will Rajdhani and Shatabdi and Duronto, which can then go up to their full potential of 160 km/hr. Going forward, I think the fact that we have reduced the weight of this locomotive and kept it cost neutral is a very-very important development, because it demonstrates the capability of our Indian engineers. And it will ensure that our rail track also has less damage, with lesser weight, and a faster engine.
The Make in India has been an initiative of the Indian Railways and we have continuously improved our designs, developed new and new products, which will truly take us to the level of international railways and this whole project was done in probably the fastest period that you would have been ever experienced. I doubt even the private sector can do something as fast as this. This project was cleared only in September ’18. And in under six months, we have been able to manufacture this new WAP-7HS engine, manufacturing started in November’18. The modified car body has been produced in Jan’19 and it has been turned out from CLW on 27th February 2019.
I thought it’s a great opportunity to unveil this new locomotive for the world to see. Of course, it will go through the necessary trials, approvals by the commissioner of rail safety and other processes, but it’s important for the world to see and recognize the capabilities of India engineers, capabilities of our people to do better than what other countries in the world are doing. In fact, this engine is fitted with Head-on Generation, HOG system to power the coaches, the locomotives have gap air conditioning so our loco pilots and drivers will also have a comfortable journey. There is crew voice and video recording system, like a black box in the aircraft. It has a signal exchange system. And it’s quite pretty, if I may say so, quite well-designed and looks quite attractive.
The efforts of Indian railways to reduce pollution, particularly, by electrification of 100 percent of the routes will give maximum benefit to a state like Kerala, which is focused on tourism, large part of your employment, a large part of your revenues comes out of tourism. And with the electrification of the entire routes under Indian railways, you will find less pollution and train journeys becoming far more exciting and attractive. I must compliment the teams which have rapidly taken up electrification on the ground level. 5 years ago, Indian Railways used to electrify about 600-650 km per year of railway track.
Last year, we electrified over 4000 km and I am happy to share with you that for the current year ending March 2019, we are confident of completing electrification of 6000 km of railway track, probably, a feat which is unparalleled in the history of the world. No other country in the world, I would suspect, may have done such rapid, electrification of their network. I am given to understand even the United States of America even today less than two percent of their tracks are electrified. India is rapidly moving toward a 100 percent electrification and we have become the world’s largest fully electrified train system over the next 3 or 4 years.
My compliments to the entire railways family for these path-breaking initiatives and historic achievements over the last 5 years. And I am sure as I have been repeatedly saying that despite being a government department, a government organization, this kind of extraordinary result is possible because of the vision that you have and the leadership that all of you are demonstrating to make Indian Railways the best railway in the world.
I would like to thank Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi for giving us direction and guidance from time to time and helping us create a long term vision for the railways giving us leadership and empowering our entire railway team with more and more opportunities to do outstanding work providing us with adequate funding so that budgetary constraints never come in the way of development. And thanks to this collective effort of the 1.3 million, 13 lakh rail parivar, rail family as we call them, the Indian railway is poised to truly make this the preferred choice both for passengers and freight movement.
My best wishes to all my friends in the programme at Nemom. Congratulations to all of you. I hope this new coaching terminus comes up quickly with your support on land acquisition. Congratulation to the entire team at the Chittaranjan locomotion works and to all of the colleagues and friends in the railways.
We have an international Women’s Day being celebrated tomorrow. May I take this opportunity to wish all the women of India and the world, a great future and an empowered future, something for which Prime Minister Modi’s government has been relentlessly working for the last 5 years. We in the railways have been working from the last 5 years. And tomorrow across the Indian Railways at every station we will be carrying out some programme on women empowerment and acquainting our people with the various initiatives that railways has done to empower women, both as employees, as entrepreneurs and the women passengers of the country.
Last year, we had carried out a campaign which was to protect and save women and children from human trafficking. I compliment all the RPF jawans, officials, the station masters, station officials for the wonderful work that they did, for the transformational change that has happened in the mindset of the railways when it comes to protecting children, particularly girl child, women from human trafficking. And I assure the people of India that we will relentlessly pursue this mission so that nobody can be ever having to suffer such an unfortunate thing and the railways will ensure that as far as possible, we will not allow railways to be used for these gruesome criminal activities that are carried out by some people in some parts of India. So my salute to the RPF officials, particularly the RPF lady officials and constables and my salute to all the railway employees who participated in this noble mission.
Tomorrow, we will all be taking up the international Women’s Day across Indian Railways. And the programmes may be finalized by all the divisions and shared extensively with the people at large so that we can convey our humble contribution to the empowerment of women and to a better and safer future for our passengers and our employees at their endeavors.
Thank you. Good luck.
March 5, 2019 Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana, in Mumbai