The newly appointed Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal, recently claimed that Indian Railways and the and the peripheral ecosystem could be a good source of employment in coming few years. Having recently taken up the mantle of leading the Indian railways, he commented that the sector had a potential of generating as much as 10 lakh jobs within a year, with rail safety capable of employing two lakh people on its own.
Addressing a crowd during a talk at the World Economic Forum he added, "My own sense is that such jobs may not be directly in railways, but certainly through engaging people and working in variety of areas across the ecosystem, not less than a million jobs can be created in less than 12 months”. To do this, stated a PTI report, his department is actively working towards monetizing real estate assets with it, which will drive job creation in the railways and the ecosystem around it. There is stress on expediting some of the ongoing investment plans, which again will give rise to new job opportunities.
"If I look at the amount of investment in pipeline and activate that, it will create 2-2.5 lakh jobs in existing projects," Goyal said.
Plans, like the introduction of the new bullet train line, would also add to job creation capacity of the Indian Railways. According to a recent report the plan has the potential to create direct employment of up to 4,000 employees, primarily directed towards the operation and maintenance of railway line. Further, the project has been touted to have the potential to generate about 16,000 indirect employment opportunities.
Indian Railways also has been slow to keep up with the incoming changes within the travel industry. Modernising its processes and services can greatly contribute to its impact on the jobs market as well. “Rail modernisation will also help employ more aspirants,” said Goyal. He also mentioned how the government will soon float a global tender to procure tracks for modernising the railways, which can create a million jobs within a year through various areas across its ecosystem”
Although no timeline was committed to such an initiative, Piyush Goyal added, “I have diverted all available tracks to track renewal so that we can make the existing tracks safer. We are looking to go in for global procurement of rail track which will help fast track the doubling of lines and new projects,"
The Indian Railways has traditionally been one of the biggest employers in India, giving job opportunities to over a million personnel. It is one of the biggest employers of manpower in the world and largest of its kind in India. To increase its capacity to employ more people though Piyush Goyal would have to look at ways to do so without necessarily increasing the burden directly on the consumers, as this often becomes a contentious issue within the country.
Recognising this he added that passenger safety will be paramount for the railways and there would be no limit to funding it. Indian Railways was rattled with numerous rail accidents in the last few months, raising concern over faltering rail safety.
"There is no limit to safety expenditure. Safety will be the priority of Indian railways. I have also categorized pedestrian foot-over bridges, platforms, entry and exit points as safety items. I have turned around 100-year-old tradition which used to consider all of this as amenities," he said. In the end, the need to tap into Indian Railways potential to create jobs while ensuring public safety and convenience will have to be a balancing act.
The last railway budget had hinted towards the governments’ effort of capitalizing on this latent potential within the Indian Railways. Suresh Prabhu in his last rail budget speech had spoken on how the Indian Railways would look at “generating employment of 14 crore man-days in the period of 2018-2019."
But in order to rejuvenate the jobs creation scene within Indian Railways, it will take more than just investments to ensure that the place is able to attract and retain talent. Speaking to People Matters in an interview earlier last year, Suresh Prabhu, the then Railway Minister echoed a similar concern. He explained “Synergizing the workforce in tune with the existing objectives as well as future challenges is a huge HR challenge. The employees are highly motivated and disciplined. They have a strong commitment to the organization which is reflected in the use of Railway Family by all. Yet they have legitimate aspirations for career growth as well as certain personal requirements in matters of postings and transfers.”
A recent step in this direction was taken when the Center announced productivity linked bonuses for its employees. About 12.30 lakh non-gazetted railway employees are likely to benefit from the scheme. The release said this bonus will serve as an incentive and would result in motivating a large number of railway employees. But a lot more still remains to be done. As Piyush Goyal quite aptly recounted during his speech at the WEF summit, “India has huge investment potential but a change in mindset is required to transform the country.”
Goyal said that with sectors like coal and power showing a good turnaround, it was the turn for the railways now. "Narrative is changing, Brand India is being built. India is being now recognised as a country which is honest in its dealings, where technology drives growth," Goyal said. Stating that megastructures cannot be built on a weak foundation, he said if India has to prepare itself for global challenges of tomorrow, there is a need to develop a framework that will ensure decades of prosperity.
"I think there is no better place in the world today to invest in, no larger market than the Indian market and there is no pole which is going to be more important than India," he added.