Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has called the Railways a unifying force and has opposed any move to privatise it.
“Anyone can see the record to find out which is the one big unifying force which has kept the country united and the answer will always be Railways. Today a north Indian or people from the North-eastern states can go to the south, and how it’s possible? It is because of the Railways, which is the lifeline,” he said.
Indian Railways, the largest rail network in the world, has been owned by the government since its inception by the British in 1853.
Over the last years, following huge losses, the government has initiated several efforts to reverse the tide.
Last year, railways minister Piyush Goyal, who is handling the portfolio in the second term of the Narendra Modi government, said his focus was to increase the capacity of railways though enhanced signalling and adding more lines, along with cost-cutting in the loss-making passenger sector.
The railways’ revenue comes from the freight section, but much of it is lost in subsidies in the passenger sector.
Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman last week proposed public-private partnerships in Railways to build more tracks and increase connectivity across the country.
After the budget speech, Mr Kumar had cautioned that the proposal for raising funds for railway projects through public-private partnership model “should not send across the message that the railways is being privatized”