PM Modi has 50-year vision for India’s growth: Ashwini Vaishnaw

April 24, 2024
Union Railways and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, in an exclusive conversation with IANS

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Union Railways and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, in an exclusive conversation with IANS, expressed his views on several issues ranging from the development of Indian Railways, employment generation, vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government’s overall development plans for the next five years, Artificial Intelligence, semiconductors and investment across the technology sector.

The Union Minister answered IANS questions very candidly and also gave a message to the people of the country that in the next five years, the government plans to ensure that every person travelling by train can get a confirmed ticket.

IANS: There are talks of a bullet train. A plan has also been made and work on it is going on at a rapid pace. When can the Indian passengers get a chance to travel by bullet train?

Ashwini Vaishnaw: Significant progress has been made in the construction of various stations for India’s first bullet train and we are geared up to run the first train in one section in 2026. More than 290 kms of work has already been done. Bridges have been built over eight rivers. Work is going on at 12 stations. The stations have also come to the same level so the work is nearing completion. The work is going on at two depots. It is going on at a very fast pace with the complete target of opening its first section in 2026. The bullet train is a very complex project. The work on it started in 2017 and it took almost two-and-a-half years to complete the design. Its design is very complex because the vibrations are very strong at the speed at which the train has to run. So, how to manage those vibrations? If we have to take electricity from overhead cables then how do we take that current? Everything like speed, aerodynamics, etc. has to be looked at very carefully and the work started immediately after that. In between, there was a little setback due to the Covid pandemic. In Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray’s government refused to give permission which delayed the project. But the work is progressing very well now.

IANS: If seen from the point of view of ‘Viksit Bharat’, in which specific areas is the Railway Ministry working for rapid progress?

Ashwini Vaishnaw: The important target of Indian Railways is our low-income and middle-income families. To develop a good, affordable, safe, timely delivery service for them. Therefore, it was very important to increase the capacity of railways. Only by increasing the capacity of railways, more trains will be able to run and only by running more trains, people will be able to get the facilities they want. In the next five years, it is PM Modi’s guarantee that almost any passenger who wants to travel can easily get a confirmed ticket. In the last 10 years, PM Modi has done unprecedented transformation in railways. In the next five years, PM Modi’s guarantee is that the capacity of the railways will be increased so much that almost any passenger who wants to travel can easily get a confirmed ticket. To increase the capacity, if we look at the period from 2014 to 2024 and compare it with 2004 to 2014, then you will see a big difference. In the process of building railway tracks, only 17,000 kms of tracks were built between 2004 and 2014. From 2014 to 2024, 31,000 kms of new tracks were built. In the 10 years from 2004 to 2014, only around 5,000 kms were electrified, whereas in the last 10 years, a staggering 44,000 kms of railway electrification took place. Only 32,000 coaches were made from 2004-2014. In the last 10 years, 54,000 coaches were built. For the dedicated freight corridor, not even a single kilometre was commissioned before 2014. Now, two dedicated freight corridors of 2,734 kms have been commissioned. In the next five years, Indian Railways, which is a strong link in the growth of the country’s economy, will be further strengthened and the facilities, especially for the passengers, will be expanded at a much faster pace.

IANS: Promises for improvement and innovation of Indian Railways have also been made in the BJP manifesto. What are the plans for the next five years?

Ashwini Vaishnaw: The Bharatiya Janata Party has very clearly laid out the vision of railways in its manifesto for the next five years and the first is that PM Modi has guaranteed that the capacity of the railways will be expanded very rapidly in the next five years. Second, many types of new technologies will be introduced. Third, three types of Vande Bharat trains will be used for the convenience of passengers — Vande Bharat Sleeper, Vande Bharat Chair Car, and Vande Bharat Metro Car. By using these three, passengers will be provided with very good facilities. The fourth, Amrit Bharat train, will be manufactured in large numbers in the near future so that anyone can travel long distances comfortably. For ease of travel, a Super App will be created so that every facility related to all kinds of rail travel can be addressed comfortably through the app. The comprehensive Super App has been designed to serve as a one-stop solution for railway commuters. The redevelopment of 1,320 stations is going on and will be completed soon. After that, all the other medium and big stations will also be included in the station redevelopment programme.

IANS: In manufacturing, we have seen that many global companies have come to India thanks to various schemes like ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’ and PLI. How do you see the future?

Ashwini Vaishnaw: The simplifications around compliances via the ‘Make in India’ initiative gave local manufacturing a much-needed thrust in the last 10 years and the next five years will only take that vision forward across sectors. In the last 10 years, ever since PM Modi launched the ‘Make in India’ programme, he made several simplifications around compliances to bring about a big improvement in manufacturing. The results can be seen today. Look at the manufacturing growth in any sector, be it Defence, textiles, electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, or others. In electronics manufacturing alone, about 12 lakh new jobs have been created. Electronics manufacturing has reached about $100 billion. In mobile manufacturing, India has become one of the top two countries in the world and the way it is growing is phenomenal. The country will benefit greatly from this and employment will only increase in years to come. In the ecosystem of Apple alone, more than 1.5 lakh people have got employment and there is a good amount of growth. In the future, you will see even more exponential growth. PM Modi’s clear focus is to make India a global manufacturing hub. There is a unified belief among people regarding that clear focus.

IANS: We have seen huge investments in the semiconductor industry, be it design or manufacturing. How do you see the future of the semiconductor sector in the country?

Ashwini Vaishnaw: There is a clear policy on bringing state-of-the-art technologies to India — be it Artificial Intelligence, Electric Vehicles or semiconductors. Such policies have been made so that the youth of the country can get more employment options and domestic startups can benefit. Semiconductor manufacturing remained only a dream since 1960 and PM Modi finally fulfilled that dream. Four chip units have been commissioned today. Technology is developing. Construction is going on fast. There is complete preparation to release the first chip from Micron’s Sanand plant in December itself. Moreover, the plant that is being set up in Assam will use the chips made there in the world’s biggest EVs. In a way, India has a huge potential because we are very strong in semiconductor design. In this spirit, PM Modi has taken a pledge to bring semiconductor manufacturing to India and in the next five years, India will become one of the biggest semiconductor hubs in the world. The biggest semiconductor hub will be built in the country. We will work for that effort with the same determination.

IANS: There is a lot of discussion about the misuse of AI. PM Modi also discussed it with Bill Gates and expressed concern about deep fakes. How can this be controlled?

Ashwini Vaishnaw: We have to utilise AI for the greater good of the public as well as stop its misuse. We have to find the right balance. Once the new government is in place in June, we will start public consultations on the AI framework. We have created a robust AI framework and will soon make it public.

IANS: What would you say about India becoming the technology leader of the world?

Ashwini Vaishnaw: India’s talent is recognised all over the world, no matter which field you look at. Whether you look at the design of complex chips, look at the design of semiconductor chips, look at the design of telecom or electronics, India’s talent has been recognised globally and the confidence has been given by PM Modi. PM Modi has very clearly emphasised that we should develop India’s own technology. This feeling and this confidence that has come to the country is a huge achievement in the last 10 years. You will definitely see that India in the coming years will emerge as a leading country in many complex technologies.

IANS: You have been working with PM Modi for a long time. Is there any experience that you want to share which people do not know about?

Ashwini Vaishnaw: I would like to share four things. First, PM Modi always strives to lay the foundation for the work that has to be done to make the country prosperous for growth and progress in the next 25 years and the next 50 years. He thinks in that direction and always works with a long-term vision. Second, PM Modi is a very open-minded person. Whoever comes to him with ideas, thoughts, analysis, and experiences, he listens to those experiences with great concentration and depth and uses them. Third, PM Modi has always stressed on transparency and that there should be a clear policy. Do all work according to that policy. Everyone should work according to the policy. Look at everyone with equanimity. Fourth, the PM is a very sensitive person. I have seen that whenever any topic comes up, PM Modi always thinks about our common citizens from the low-income group, about whom no one thinks. So, in this way, the trust that the country has today in PM Modi is very important. If we look at the governments since 1950, for the first time, people have gained confidence in the government.

–IANS

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