October 27, 2017

Speaking at International Conference on Green Initiatives & Railway Electrification, in New Delhi

My very esteemed colleague Shri Manoj Sinhaji, honourable Minister for Telecom and Railways, Shri Ghanshyam Singhji, Shri VK Agarwalji, Shri Dograji, all the distinguished colleagues from the Indian Railways.

It’s also a matter of great delight for us that our former senior colleagues are with us, Chairman and members, other colleagues, who have as Manojji rightly said, even though they have retired from the Railways, they are neither tired nor willing to hang in the boots. They still want to serve India. And I must thank them personally for having come here today.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, मनोज जी अपनी बातों से हमको हर वक्त मोहित करते रहते हैं तो उन्होंने बात ज़रूर कही कि विज्ञापन और सीरियल के बीच का अंतर, लेकिन उसी को थोड़ा और आगे बढ़ाते हुए – वह शाहरुख खान का dialogue हैना ‘यह तो ट्रेलर है, पिक्चर अभी बाकी है’| मुझे लगता है अभी बहुत बड़ी कहानी  भारतीय रेल की लिखनी बाकी है और उस कहानी को लिखने का एक अध्याय आज यहाँ पर शुरू होगा, उसकी आप लोग सब चर्चा करेंगे, उसमें से कुछ अच्छे सुझाव निकलेंगे आज और कल के इस दो दिवसीय International Conference on Green Initiatives and Railway Electrification में|

और मैं बधाई देना चाहूँगा सभी आयोजकों का, घनश्याम सिंह जी का, उनकी टीम का, मिनिस्ट्री ऑफ़ रेलवेज के अन्य-अन्य अधिकारी अलग-अलग जगह से जो यहाँ पर गोष्ठी में शामिल होने आये हैं, और IREE का जिन्होंने मिलकर इस सपने को कैसे जल्द से जल्द पूरा करना, अच्छी तरीके से पूरा करना और कुशलता से पूरा करना| उसके पीछे जो आप सबने आज का आयोजन, आज और कल के इस दो दिवसीय बैठक का आयोजन किया मैं आप सभी को बधाई देता हूँ, शुभकामनाएं देता हूँ|

This is the changing mindset of the Indian Railways that you are witnessing today. I was in Bengaluru yesterday and I just got these papers from the car to begin by reflecting the changing confidence and the changing attitude to work that we are witnessing in the Indian Railways under the inspiring and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Modi, which I wanted to share with you this morning. Before I took charge as a Minister for Railways, on the 4th September, I had travelled to Bengaluru for a party meeting. I took charge on the 4th evening.

And, while I was flying into Bengaluru, our senior colleague Shri Anant Kumarji was on the flight with me, and we were trying to judge whether we will be able to reach the meeting on time, considering the serious traffic problems of Bengaluru. And he said, since 1996, he has been asking the railways – 20 years – he has been asking the railways to consider starting and expanding suburban services in Bengaluru. And expanding it so that people from the airport can go to their workplace, can go to the centre, instead of spending one and a half hours to reach the centre of Bengaluru, or two and a half hours to reach the IT centres, whether Indian Railways can provide an alternate solution.

It was a casual conversation on the flight. We went for our meeting. I came back. I took charge of the Ministry. On the 18th September, I was reviewing the zone that runs the Bengaluru Railways, and in the course of discussions with the Southwest Railways and their entire team, led by their General Manager, on 18th September, I requested them to study the entire Bengaluru Railway network and come up with a preliminary project proposal to have an elevated railway over the Bengaluru city section and suburban section. Possibly, also have a road on top of the rail.

So, a 2-tier expansion of the railway network, the idea being that you can’t get land in Bengaluru today, so we need to somehow find a solution to the problems of Bengaluru without significant land acquisition. And on 18th September, with full seriousness, I gave them 30 days to come up with a preliminary concept on that. I am delighted to share with you that yesterday when I was in Bengaluru, the South Western Railway, and I would like to share with you how they took up this project on mission mode.

On 18th September, I gave the direction. On 20th September, the General Manager listed out the approach and advised the action agenda to be completed in the next 28 days with timelines and a responsibility matrix. On the 26th September – 6 days later, the South Western Railway construction wing of Bengaluru awarded the consultancy to RITES for a conceptual plan and study on the proposed elevated rail and road network.

On 1st of October – 4 days later, the Bengaluru Division gave a rough assessment of the (Inaudible) land for commercial exploitation, including what will be required to relocate the service buildings – 4 days later. Since they did not have all the drawings, they used Google to locate and prepare the plan of where all land is available, because I had also said that you must try and see how this scheme can be self-financed through monetization of the surplus land that we have. And Bengaluru land is a very valuable asset.

Then they identified the various sections which need to be elevated, which can go on land. RITES took up in right earnest – and I am not trying to create an acronym like we probably heard yesterday, because for us development is a positive agenda, not a negative story. I think the message is lost amongst most of you. But in any case, our approach to development is a positivity in taking forward good plans in mission mode, and in mission mode, come up with solutions, not work for 10 years only expanding negativity and having a we-can’t-do-it attitude. The attitude is reflected over here.

And I am delighted to share with you that on the 18th October, RITES had finalized an initial conceptual plan with significant details, right up to drawings of how this whole project, where the roots will be, what will be the height of the first stage elevation, what will be the height of the second stage elevation. And on 18th October, exactly 30 days from the day the assignment was given or the thinking was articulated in a review meeting; we have with us a proposal on which the Indian Railways can now start deliberating and working what needs to be done.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sharing this with you only to reflect the new confidence with which the Indian Railways is working, with the commitment to time-bound delivery of services to serve the common man, as honorable Minister Shri Manoj Sinhaji just said, to serve the last man at the bottom of the pyramid who is our biggest stakeholder, who is the person for whom we work, the common man who pays Rs 5 on a Kolkata metro and reaches his place of work or goes back home in the evening, the common man for whom railways is the preferred mode of transport, and possibly the only mode of transport, which is affordable and which can take him to his destination fastest.

And it is for that common man that each one of the 1.3 million railway employees have dedicated themselves to bring about change, to bring about change in the way we work, and bring about change in the way we implement. And I gave this example only to make sure that all the naysayers, if any, who may have come into this room or even outside, who are very wary of imagining that if railways did 1000 kms every year of electrification, is 8000 kms a year possible by next year or the year after that?

It is for those people that I want to give a clear message that the mindset of Indian Railways has changed. We are working with an enthusiasm, a spirit, a Will-Do, Can-Do spirit that we can move mountains when it’s required, that we can achieve aggressive targets, we can work in a time-bound manner meeting targets of cost and investment, and do it efficiently, do it safely, do it speedily, do it skillfully, implement at scale, and achieve our objective of making Indian Railways truly world-class, safe, comfortable, working to serve the people of India efficiently, effectively, creating thousands of jobs in the process, addressing concerns of climate change simultaneously, bringing down costs in the system pushing in more efficiency, so that we don’t have to burden our customers, customers who are the king of our railway network with more costs both on the passenger side or on the freight side.

And I am sure, this thrust to change the way we work will receive the blessings, support, cooperation and collaboration, not only of the 1.3 million employees of the Indian Railways, but of the people of India, of all the stakeholders, be it the media, be it people who are concerned, who are working with the railways in different aspects, maybe as suppliers, maybe as contractors. And I have no doubt in my mind that when we all decide collectively to achieve these transformational goals, no power on earth can stop us from being successful.

India is changing fast. India now plans to lead the world. Just like in LEDs, Ghanshyamji was just mentioning about our plan that in the next 6-8 months, Indian Railways is going to be 100% LED-lit. India led the world. Today, wherever we go anywhere in the world, local political leaders, local officials compliment the leadership of Prime Minister Modi in taking LED lighting to the entire world as a cost-effective solution for energy efficiency, energy conservation, bringing down electricity bills for consumers.

India alone, and our consumers of India alone are going to benefit by Rs 40,000 crore annual reduction in their electricity bills – Rs 40,000 crore, just by one single LED programme. And I remember, when we launched the LED programme, and we said that we will replace 770 million, that’s about 77 crore incandescent and CFL bulbs, by LED bulbs in the next 4 years – from 2015 to 2019. A lot of people in the world didn’t believe us.

To add to that, when LED bulbs were being bought at Rs 310 by the government up to 2014, when I said that we will make sure that the bulb prices come down to 2 digits, which is a maximum of Rs 99, I think the world even laughed at us. Ladies and gentlemen, two and a half years later after launching that programme, I am delighted to share with you that forget 700 million in 4 years, we have already crossed 750 million bulbs in India being replaced by LED between the public sector and the private sector – EESL and what the private sector has sold, with prices which have come down by nearly 87% from what they were prevailing in 2014. 87% reduction!

310 रुपये में जो 7 W का बल्ब खरीदते थे, आज वही बल्ब 40 रुपये में 9 W का बल्ब ख़रीदा जाता है| पेबैक, 2-2.5 महीने, 3 महीने में तो पेबैक हो जाता है| 2-3 दिन पहले महिंद्रा एंड महिंद्रा ने EESL के साथ एक प्रेस वार्ता में मुंबई में बताया कि उन्होंने पूरे महिंद्रा एंड महिंद्रा को LED से लाइट किया तो उससे लगभग 4-5 महीने में उनके कुल इन्वेस्टमेंट का पेबैक हो गया| Entire investment got paid back.

That is the kind of transformational change that we are envisaging through the electrification of the Indian Railways.

आखिर शत-प्रतिशत विद्युतीकरण कोई भी रेलवे का विश्व में नहीं हुआ है| कई लोग मुझे आकर बताते हैं साहब पूरी दुनिया में एक भी रेलवे ऐसी नहीं है जिसने शत-प्रतिशत विद्युतीकरण की कल्पना भी की हो, लागू करना तो दूर की बात है, कल्पना भी नहीं की है| तो क्या भारत दूसरे के प्रति देखकर ही अपनी नीतियों का निर्धारण करेगा या भारत विश्व की नीति कैसी हो उसका नेतृत्व करेगा यह हम सबके सामने चुनौती है|

Will India be the first country in the world to have a 100% electrified rail network, and such a large network? That ladies and gentlemen is the challenge before us. We have accepted that challenge. We seek your cooperation, your involvement, your support to make that challenge happen in a defined timeframe, with a defined outlay, with a defined investment plan.

Of course, अभी तक जो विद्युतीकरण हुआ है उसमें मुझे बताया गया कि लगभग 1 करोड़, 1 करोड़ 5 लाख रुपये per line kilometer investment हो रहा है| मेरा मानना है जिस प्रकार से हमने LED में दाम को कम करने में एक बड़ा विश्व को योगदान दिया, इसी प्रकार से विद्युतीकरण के ऊपर भी जैसे ही हम स्केल बढ़ाएंगे, जैसे ही कॉन्ट्रैक्ट का साइज़ 20-30 किलोमीटर, 40 किलोमीटर के बदले 300 किलोमीटर, 500 किलोमीटर, कोई बड़ी लाइन होगी तो 1000 किलोमीटर एक साथ दिया जा सकता है|

After all, when contractors are mobilizing resources, when there is an infrastructure being created to implement a project, the project manager will be the same whether you do 30 kms or you do 300 kms. The supervisory staff, the associated infrastructure, the moving of equipment, the procurement of equipment, the effort behind the procurement; all of that will help economies of scale bring down costs.

Just like I had said that LED bulbs should come down to double-digits और फिर मेरी कल्पना के भी आगे चला गया, वह 99 क्या हुआ और 38 रुपये में फिलिप्स ने हमें 9 W के बल्ब दिए थे| घनश्याम जी मैं समझता हूँ विद्युतीकरण का भी अब 1 करोड़ का यह मामला ख़त्म होना चाहिए| अब इसको भी हमने मिनिमम, कम से कम इस इन्वेस्टमेंट को मैं समझता हूँ 30% हम घटा सकते हैं अगर हम इसको efficiently implement करें, समय-सीमा के हिसाब से implement करें, एक incentive structure दें जो लोग समय पर implement करते हैं, अच्छी तरीके से करते हैं, incentive के साथ penalty भी लगा देना, ऐसा नहीं हो जाये कि एक-तरफ़ा हो जाये|

But with a good incentive-cum-penalty structure, if we complete this project through large packets in a time bound manner, and I am personally assuring each one of you, payments will be made on the 30th day for whatever work and whatever schedule is drawn up without (inaudible), without questions asked as long as the quality is certified. We are going to work with time bound certification and payment plan, so you finish whatever work in 7 days, we will be bound to clear the quality and on the 30th day, payment will be made into your bank account through RTGS – ‘your’ as in whoever is implementing these projects.

Projects will be bid out through a transparent mechanism, designs will be sought to be standardized, so people don’t have to rush to RDSO or to the railways for every single design approval, every single drawing approval. If at all any approvals are required there will be a defined timeframe in which we will be bound to give approvals. A holistic plan needs to be drawn up. And I hope this two-day Conference organized by the Institution of Railway Electrical Engineers will help us by tomorrow evening draw up all the bottlenecks, all the requirements, which will help us implement this programme on mission mode, and a comprehensive discussion should take place.

I saw the agenda. It’s a wonderful agenda that has been drawn up over the next 2 days. Let’s look at every aspect, I think the financing aspect I didn’t find, financing as in how to ensure that contractors and people who implement these projects don’t get starved of working capital of funds. If required, we are even willing to open letter of credits if it helps the contractors raise low-cost funding from their banks to implement the projects more efficiently.

We are open to all suggestions, all ideas. Funding is already tied up, by the way, for this project. I was sitting in my office 3 days back and the Chairman of a financial institution came and met me, and he said we would like to fund 100% of your electrification programme of the Indian Railways. After all, if it is going to save Rs 10,000 crore every year, any smart, sensible banker will want to fund this investment and this project.

It’s a complete no-brainer, if I may use that term, to fund such a project. So, funds have been tied up, the paperwork will have to be only done now. The decision has been made, and as a German writer, Goethe, had said, ‘To think is easy, to act is difficult. But to act as one thinks is most difficult.’ But, we in this room and in this team are people who love to take on challenges and we would love to act on this difficult path to achieve this mission in a defined timeframe.

There are many-fold benefits that Manoj ji spoke about, that Ghanshyamji spoke about. Clearly, this is the way forward for a modern evolving railway. After all, it pains me that in many ways and in many things we have got left behind as the world moved at a fast pace towards modernisation of railways, towards bringing in new technologies in their railways. There are still some people who live in a very old and backward mindset, but for those people, I have no time. They can live in the past, I live in the future.

I was told that when the Rajdhani was also introduced in 1969, some people had opposed the introduction of Rajdhani. क्या ज़रूरत है, ट्रेन तो चल ही रही है, वैसे तो कोयले से भी ट्रेन चला करती थी, हर जंक्शन पर आधा-आधा, पौना घंटा रुकती थी कोयला लोड करने के लिए और पानी लोड करने के लिए, so that thermal engine से गाड़ियाँ चलें|

तो क्या भारत के लोग ज़िन्दगी भर, are we doomed, are we destined to live in the past? Or are we going to make a serious effort to plan for the future? That is the intention and the objective with which the Indian Railways are working. We believe it is possible to change.

I don’t know if you are aware, in Delhi alone, 50% of the trains that come in from different areas – since Delhi is quite central and you have trains coming in from all 4 sides – 50% of the trains that come into Delhi are diesel-driven. Because at some stretch, possibly it doesn’t have electrification. So, don’t be under the impression that it’s only about economic feasibility that on this line there is so much traffic, therefore, it is economically feasible to electrify that line. There may be a line which may only have a short distance, but if that remains unelectrified, a train coming in from there to Mumbai, or Delhi or any of the large populated areas, the people will suffer.

So, we will have to think innovatively, work with the same speed with which South Western Railways has taken up the preparations for plans to elevate railways and provide modern and efficient alternate transport to the people of Bengaluru. It’s still work in progress, but I am very confident that we will be able to make a viable proposition out of it. We are people who don’t necessarily always stick to any one point and then doggedly, dogmatically rather, we doggedly pursue our goals, but we are not dogmatic about our thinking. We are open to new ideas. We are open to new thoughts.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the new Indian Railways that in the days and years to come is going to be a part of New India that is envisioned by honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. As the nation moves on its journey towards New India, the Indian Railways will not be found wanting, the Indian Railways will also evolve into a new Indian Railways, with greater safety, with greater efficiency, with greater passenger comfort, serving the poorest of the poor with a efficient mode of transport to take him to his destination. And for all of us, ladies and gentlemen, that destination is cast in stone, that destination cannot be compromised with, that is the destination that we are all collectively working towards achieving.

And as another senior world leader had once said, ‘The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.’ We in the Indian Railways believe, we will have to change with the times. We will have to keep abreast with what is the best in the world, bring the best to our country, so that the next generation does not ever feel that we the trustees of India today have let them down. Nobody ever in the future should be able to say that this generation, which is largely sitting here, save and except a few youngsters that I am seeing in this room, I hope no young person of today, I hope my children and your children do not 10 years/15 years/20 years later have to say that we let down the country, we did not plan for a better future for the children of tomorrow, that we left an unfinished agenda, that we did not care for the earth, we did not care for the children of India, for the future of India.

Let us show that responsiveness. Let us show our commitment to leave behind a better India, a developed India, a modern India, a new India, and a new Indian Railway for the people of tomorrow.

Thank you very much.


Next Speech

October 25, 2017 Speaking at Press Conference, in New Delhi

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